Monday, 31 August 2009

Do We Really Know Ourselves?

We all know that we have an unconscious side. But often we don't really know how it influences our decisions and therefore the way in which we act in our everyday lifes. We may have developed some unconscious reactions (due to whatever reason) to things without necessarily knowing it. Sometimes it is scary to admit. Do I really have an unconscious preference for white over black people? Do I really have a preference for straight relative to gay people? I may not admit it, but it could be that way...

Take an example: One can claim not to be a sexist. He may perfectly know that and act accordingly on his/her every day life. He/She may be far from believing that men should be those who go to work and women those staying at home cleaning, ironing and looking after children. Anyway there may be some unconsious associations in his/her mind. Like thinking that career related words (e.g.: ambition, success, CEO, etc...) are more men's stuff and home related words (e.g.: vacuum cleaner, washing-machine, diapers, etc...) are more women's stuff. Interesting, isnt'it?

As wonderfully explained in Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink (You have to read it), some researchers at Harvard are trying to better understand these kind of implicit associations, preferences and how they work. They're working on loads of topics, like gender-related topics, race, poilitcs, religion and so on.

Anyway I think that the best way to really appreciate what I am talking about is to go and visit their site. There you'll have the chance to test yourself and discover some of your implicit preferences and associations.

Click on the following link and then go in the Demonstration section. After that, you'll only have to choose a topic and start the test. Here's the link: