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 I've been listening to "Blink" a book/audiobook by Malcolm Gladwell.  It's about that split-second gut reaction thinking that humans have adapted over the years.  Mostly, it's about the way we unconsciously make decisions or reason with ourself that may affect our overall decision making process whether we know it's happening or not.  He talks about a lot of really interesting studies done in different fields that sort of lead to similar conclusions about the way people think or react to certain subjects.  How people can be 'primed' to think a certain way for a brief period of time, or how automatic preferences for certain things based on our unconscious indoctrination (from media/culture/background) are formed.

In the book he talks about race associations and how though many of us would probably say for example, that we don't think we have any preference for white people over black people, that there are implicit associations our mind makes that actually influence our real preferences.  It's unconscious, but it happens.  Gladwell himself is half-black and took the implicit associations test at the Harvard website - which I'll link in a moment - and was surprised at his own choices which the test showed still a slight preference for whites over blacks.  

I went over to the IAT Harvard site, and found a whole slew of tests for just about everything - preferences on race, weight, disability, politics, gender.  The only one I've taken so far is the Fat-Thin IAT which showed that I have 'little to no automatic preference between fat and thin people'.  Which I think is true about myself.  But, also, as Gladwell himself mentioned in the book, I'm a little scared to see my responses to some of the other tests.  The difference between your answers might only be in milliseconds, but they can show you what automatic preferences your mind has that you might not wish to see.  

If you do it, go with an open mind about the results you might find about yourself.  You might not like the answers.

When you go to Project Implicit, you can choose to participate in the Demonstration tests - which is what I did.  Or you can register to actually participate in the Research and take the tests so your answers can be used in their research.


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Apr. 9th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
I'm not trying to be bitchy, but how can someone possibly not know that they have preferences and what those preferences are? How can a person be lacking that much self-awareness? I know what my preferences are and I don't see anything wrong with them. I could get into it, but that's not really my question; I just honestly don't know how someone could not notice such a thing about themselves.

EDIT: To further expand on the 'not trying to be bitchy' bit, I wanted to state that I really am confused about how a person can not know his or her own preferences. I'm not trying to challenge people or pick a fight. I just mean, how can you not notice what you do and don't like over time and also not recognize the pattern that forms? I notice what I find attractive and what I don't and I have theories as to why on both. The idea of someone insisting they have a preference when, over time, they've had, say, the opposite preference, just seems impossible to me.

Edited at 2010-04-09 09:04 pm (UTC)
Apr. 9th, 2010 09:57 pm (UTC)
It's not about the preferences you state you have, but how your unconscious might alter those preferences. One of the interesting bits of research he talks is race. They conducted a study where they asked black students to take a college entrance exam, but before the test, they asked half of them to mark their race on the test. The other half didn't, and the half that didn't think about their race before the test mark remarkably better on the test. When they asked the low scoring half whether or not they felt like anything effected their test results most of them said they didn't think they were smart enough for college.

The idea is not that people don't think about what influences them, because most people do. What he's talking about in the book is that there are actually unconscious things that trigger in our decision making process that we aren't even able to verbalize.

There's another study they did with a gambling game where red cards were bad and blue cards were good - but that wasn't explained ahead of time. What the study found was that after 10 cards, people developed a physical reaction (sweating) when they chose the red cards that was so small they didn't realize it was happening. After 50 cards they started actively avoiding the red cards, but couldn't say why. It wasn't until after 80 cards that they could say they thought the red cards were bad.

The idea is that our brain uses processes we can't even get at to help us make decisions that we aren't and even can't be aware of. That's not to say we aren't in control of our decisions - but that there's always a small part of ourselves that unconsciously impacts those decisions.
Apr. 9th, 2010 10:00 pm (UTC)
I mean, I don't know that all that really helps, I'm not the author or researcher. The book is definitely worth a read or listen.

Plus, I think I tried to make the same point twice in my above comment - so obviously, I'm not going to be able to explain it really well.
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