Can an online quiz reveal your deep, subconscious feelings about racism and other matters of prejudice?
Where does racism come from?
None of us are born racist, or sexist or homophobic. So how do we transform from innocent babes, to opinionated adults with firmly held prejudices, biases and sometimes even racist beliefs?
The answer is complex, but it essentially boils down to two things; the way we are socialised in early life, and the culture we grow up in.
It starts very early on. Babies as young as 3 months show an instinctive preference for faces from the same racial background.
Then, as babies turn into toddlers, stereotypes and cultural prejudices start to manifest from around 3 years olds, with kids picking up on racial prejudices from their peers and their environment, even if they don’t really understand them.
As we get older, we form attachments to peer groups – friends, family, work colleagues – in which attitudes and beliefs about ‘others’ can be reinforced by racially offensive language, jokes and may lead to negative discriminatory behavior.
Finally, layer on top social media influencers and algorithms that actually promote hate , and it’s easy to see how the tiniest sparks of prejudice can grow into internalized racism or fully-fledged racist beliefs and behaviour.
How can I know if I’m a racist?
If such beliefs are programmed into us form such a young age, how can we be sure that we’re free of deeply held subconscious prejudices or racist beliefs?
Whilst someone might seem woke on the outside, how can a white male be 100% confident that he truly has the same feelings about his white peers as he does about his black peers? How do our polite, spoken opinions differ to our gut feelings? How can I tell if I am a racist or not?
Fortunately, social scientists have pondered this question for a while – and over the years have attempted to design truly objective, scientifically valid racism test – and it’s something you can easily take part in yourself for free online…
How to take a ‘racism test’ online
Why racism is hard (or maybe impossible) to measure
Before we go further, it’s important to state that there’s no single quiz, test, metric or score to definitely answer the question how racist am I ?
The reason is simple.
Racism means different things for different people. Some people might find a particular joke racist, others may laugh and say it’s an insightful and witty critique on social norms.
Racism is a complex, multi-layered, often subjective concept which can manifest in both inward, implicit ways, such as our subconscious thoughts and feelings. But it may also manifest outwardly, as in racist language, hate speech and violence.
Understandably, this wide range of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors is an extremely difficult thing to measure, and not everybody agrees that racism tests and quizzes are accurate or valid.
But despite these uncertainties, it’s still worth taking an online test if you’re curious to know where you fall on an ‘am I racist’ scale.
The most popular ‘am I racist’ quiz’ – aka the Implicit Association Test
Introduced in 1998, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a computer based test, which measures people’s biases and unconscious associations about race, and many other areas where prejudice is concerned, including gender, sexuality, religion, weight and many others.
Since its introduction, over 5 million visitors have taken the test on the Project Implicit website. The scientific community has been equally as eager to take advantage of this tool. In the last 10 years the IAT has been used in over 300 studies and cited in over 800 articles.
Although the IAT was designed to be used by researchers as an academic tool, the tests are available to anyone who might be curious about their own, individual biases. You can take the test for free by visiting the Project Implicit website
How the test works
The IAT is a computer-based test split into several tasks, becoming progressively more difficult. Users are asked to rapidly sort words or pictures into one of two concepts,such as, black/white, male/female, fat/thin etc.
Because it’s a rapid-fire test, the researchers say it gives a ‘window’ into the unconscious mind. The video below shows how the test works in practice.
The researchers devised a scale to score the test. A reading shows bias toward the usual stereotype as a 2.0 and a bias away from the usual stereotype as a -2.0, with 0 showing no bias either way. Once you take the test online, you receive feedback about your unconscious associations and how they can be interpreted.
Not everyone agrees with the IAT. Some scientists say the test shouldn’t be taken as an absolute predictor of behavior, whilst others doubt its accuracy. “Russell Fazio, PhD, a social psychologist at Ohio State University, describes the IAT as ‘noisy’, saying ‘There’s no way to determine whether it’s measuring unconscious attitudes or simply associations picked up from the environment,”
Another high profile critic is the world’s most famous psychologist Jordan Peterson. In a Joe Rogan episode, Peterson claimed that the IAT is not sufficiently rigorous to assess racism per se, and he also comments on the way IAT test results are used in corporate institutions including Google and Starbucks to faciliate unconscious-bias training – for which there is little evidence of efficacy.
Other criticisms of the IAT include its reliability and consistency, and there have been reports of different scores if the same individual takes the test more than once.
Another criticism is that the IAT has mainly been tested with subjects from Western countries from narrow demographic backgrounds, so called WEIRD populations. The implication is to question whether or not the test is generalisable to all people and cultures from around the world.
The bottom line
Whilst the IAT may have its detractors there’s no denying that it does shed some light on less conscious aspects of racism and other biases. If you’re curious about your own unconscious or hidden biases, taking the test may help you learn something about yourself that you might not be able to find out any other way.
Here’s the link again where you can take the test online.
We’d love to hear your experience of taking the IAT. If you’ve taken the test tell us your experience in the comments section below.