Perceptual other-race training reduces implicit racial bias.PLoS One 2009; 4(1):e4215Plos
Implicit racial bias denotes socio-cognitive attitudes towards other-race groups that are exempt from conscious awareness. In parallel, other-race faces are more difficult to differentiate relative to own-race faces--the "Other-Race Effect." To examine the relationship between these two biases, we trained Caucasian subjects to better individuate other-race faces and measured implicit racial bias for those faces both before and after training.
Two groups of Caucasian subjects were exposed equally to the same African American faces in a training protocol run over 5 sessions. In the individuation condition, subjects learned to discriminate between African American faces. In the categorization condition, subjects learned to categorize faces as African American or not. For both conditions, both pre- and post-training we measured the Other-Race Effect using old-new recognition and implicit racial biases using a novel implicit social measure--the "Affective Lexical Priming Score" (ALPS). Subjects in the individuation condition, but not in the categorization condition, showed improved discrimination of African American faces with training. Concomitantly, subjects in the individuation condition, but not the categorization condition, showed a reduction in their ALPS. Critically, for the individuation condition only, the degree to which an individual subject's ALPS decreased was significantly correlated with the degree of improvement that subject showed in their ability to differentiate African American faces.
Our results establish a causal link between the Other-Race Effect and implicit racial bias. We demonstrate that training that ameliorates the perceptual Other-Race Effect also reduces socio-cognitive implicit racial bias. These findings suggest that implicit racial biases are multifaceted, and include malleable perceptual skills that can be modified with relatively little training.