Like all good liberals, I was receiving my marching orders from National Public Radio the other afternoon when I heard an interview with Michael Shermer. He’s the director of The Skeptics Society and the author of some excellent books on science, pseudoscience, religion, and superstition, just in case you’re building your Amazon Wish List.
The subject of the interview was Michael Richard’s recent racist rant, which you may have heard about, you know, if you aren’t a grizzled survivalist. It led into a discussion of the fact that lots of people say racist things, but few people really think of themselves racist. He then mentioned The Harvard Implicit Association Test. It’s actually a series of tests. The stated purpose of this project is to create a “virtual laboratory at which visitors can examine their own hidden biases”. I say it’s big fun, and a fascinating way to test both your predjudice and your manual dexterity. If you take the demonstration tests, you can choose one of 14 subjects, covering such topics as age, sexuality, skin tone, and even presidential popularity. You then try to complete as series of tasks as quickly as you can; the site will tell you not only your own implicit (possibly unconcious) biases, but also how you rank relative to other Americans. For example, I learned that I slightly associate females with science, which is not a huge surprise, but also that I have no implicit preference for Abraham Lincoln over George W. Bush. I demand a recount!