Overt racism is still very much alive and well in America, as demonstrated by incidents like the deadly neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia.
But often racism takes more subtle, casual forms. And according to a new study published in the academic journal Personality and Individual Differences, the most racially biased people are also the least likely people to be able to accurately assess their own level of racial bias.
The studies’ authors, University of London professor Keon West and Florida International University assistant professor Asia Eaton, asked participants to rank their own egalitarianism on race, and then performed the Black vs. White Implicit Associations Test. What they found was that those who scored poorly on the test also had the greatest deviation between their self-assessment and their actual score.
In one sense, this is not a surprise — it is in line with the Dunning-Kruger effect, where people inflate their own self-assessments in the face of their own inability to make an objective determination.
The result has troubling consequences for society as a whole, as interacting with the world without understanding your own racial bias can have dangerous implications for oneself and others. The authors conclude, however, that the study is also instructive of a change of approach to how we fight racism: “It is thus possible that some solutions to contemporary prejudice may rely less on motivation and more on education.”