The Eyes Don’t Lie: Addressing Implicit Bias in Social Systems

By Laura Crosswell and Lance Porter.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Communication

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Whittler and Spira (2002) suggest we react more favorably to similar racial representations and become hyper-aware of our own appearances when certain traits are idiosyncratic to social surroundings. Combining eye-tracking measurements with post-test questionnaires, we examine the degree to which skin tone and facial features are related to visual attention, identity construction, and implicit racial attitudes. Our research promotes data collection that documents involuntary responses to racial attributes and subconscious attitudes toward ethnic indicators. Because our mixed-method approach stems from “a less biased, more objectively empirical means of examining visual attention and cognitive responses,” this study guards against contemporary pressures for political correctness that commonly plague racial attitude measurements (Bott et al. 2010, 3). Analysis of implicit attitudes and impression management strategies provide insight to racial influences on cognitive processing and reactionary attitudes. Our work expands upon Greenwald et al.’s (1998) Implicit Association Test (IAT) and Saucier and Miller’s (2003) Racial Argument Scale (RAS). Research has yet to unite eye-tracking with the aforementioned instruments, even though fixation analysis alleviates some of the often-cited limitations of such tools. Furthermore, few studies (if any) examine IAT within the social cognitive framework. Therefore, this work bridges two important theoretical streams and contributes to the implicit bias measures toolkit. Our findings suggest that people who spend less time, attention, and cognitive effort identifying race tend to score higher on the RAS.

Keywords: Implicit Bias, Health Communication, Eye-tracking Research

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Communication, Volume 11, Issue 3, September 2016, pp.1-16. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 840.540KB).

Dr. Laura Crosswell

Assistant Professor, Reynolds School of Journalism and the University of Nevada, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, Nevada, USA

Dr. Lance Porter

Associate Professor, Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA