Are you prejudiced? Take this test and find out how to become less biased

The world has become more interconnected than ever, and the challenges as well as opportunities this presents are all the more felt by all of us. Across the world, thousands of people are forced or choose to migrate away from their homes, in search of a better life. All of them hope to be accepted in new communities, but this is often a very lengthy and troublesome process, especially for the refugees and asylum seekers. Communities receiving newcomers can sometimes be poorly prepared for integrating and accepting new members.

One of the hurdles both the migrants and the local residents inevitably face is overcoming prejudices and stereotypes. This pressing current migration issue reinforces the importance of dealing with prejudice in everyday life and ordinary situations. Overcoming prejudice is equally important when running social impact projects which include diverse people.

For global citizens and educators, the inevitable first step in our work with local communities is to create and raise self-awareness. So, let’s start a conversation about stereotyping others by thinking about how much we are aware of our own prejudices?

One of the very helpful tools in this process is the Implicit Association Test (IAT), popular among researchers trying to understand different kinds of prejudice. This simple test enables you to assess your bias in several different categories, such as race, age, disability, sexuality, religion, gender and more. If you have already heard of this test and taken it, tell us about the impact it made on you. What actions have you taken to combat your biases?

How does Implicit Association Test work? The test asks you to quickly categorize words or images from a certain group, such as religious affiliation, as good or bad as they flash on the screen. You are supposed to tap a key, as fast as you can, to correctly indicate which category is appropriate.

For some, the results of this test only confirm their prior awareness of their own bias, but for others it can be quite eye opening. You may think of yourself as a person who strives not to be prejudiced, but it’s hard to control these split-second reactions. Even before receiving the summary of results, it can simply feel “more natural” to sort a group of people and a negative value judgement together.

What to do once the results of the test are in? The second step, after self-awareness, is taking action. To get rid of stereotypes, we need to shift our behavior, knowing that cultural assumptions combine with natural thought processes to create hidden prejudices.

In a study conducted at the University of Virginia in 2014, different ways of reducing people’s unconscious bias were tested with the IAT. This involved putting people into scenarios and mindsets in which a member of the group they are prejudiced against is actively helping them, protecting them or saving them — in a nutshell, the member of this “out-group” became their ally. After hearing or imagining such stories, the participants of the study took the same IAT again, and showed a significant decrease in bias, much more so than the control group.

These results are encouraging, because exposure to the content that undermines your prejudice may actually help you become less biased. Using small, incrementally effective steps on a regular basis is a way to overcome your biases in a simple way. Consciousness and awareness are just a start — but they are a good start, especially if we can challenge prejudice at a young age and in a real life situation, through programs such as the AFS intercultural exchanges. These programs are focused on increasing intercultural competence: the ability to engage effectively and appropriately within different cultural settings, whether encountered locally or in an international setting. Since they are followed by proper structured reflection, they can lead to more open-minded future global citizens.

Why don’t you take the IAT in one of the categories and let us know about the results! Were you surprised?

by Milena Miladinovic, Senior Writer & Social Marketing Specialist, AFS International