While there are no plans by anyone to actually implement brain scans to uncover latent "racists" right away, the Daily Mail reports that a couple of researchers found that brain scans were able to pick up on differences in the way that people with implicit negative racial attitudes viewed black and white faces. If perfected, it could tempt governments to implement mandatory brain scans to uncover latent racists, and such tests could even be imposed upon children. Worse yet, unscrupulous authorities who've embraced the doctrine of "white privilege" might decide to subject only white people to brain scans for "racism". From the Daily Mail:
Psychologists Tobias Brosch of the University of Geneva in Switzerland and Eyal Bar-David and Elizabeth Phelps of New York University examined activity in the brain while participants looked at pictures of White and Black faces. Afterwards, participants performed a task that assessed their unconscious or implicit expression of race attitudes.
By examining patterns of brain activity in the fusiform face area — a brain area involved in face perception — the researchers were able to predict the race of the person that the participant was viewing, but only for those participants with stronger, negative implicit race attitudes. This, the researchers said, implies that people with stronger, negative implicit race attitudes may actually perceive black and white faces to look more different than others who held no such prejudice.
A press release describing these findings was also published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The Online First section lists the research article under the title of "Implicit Race Bias Decreases the Similarity of Neural Representations of Black and White Faces", published on January 8th, but only the abstract is available to the general public.
Tobias Brosch notes that these results suggest it may be possible to predict differences in implicit race bias at the individual level using brain data, while Elizabeth Phelps adds that although these findings may be of interest given the behavioral and societal implications of race bias, our ability to predict race bias based on brain data is relatively modest at this time.
Dr. Phelps actually began researching how the brain responds to people of different racial groups back in 2000. In an article entitled "How the Brain Views Race" published by Scientific American on June 26th, 2012, she stated "Most white Americans we studied show an implicit preference for their own group. They don’t have bad intentions, but because they’ve associated black people with, say, criminality so many times, their decisions are infused with that association, whether or not they believe it’s accurate. There’s evidence of unintentional race bias at every stage of the legal process. Despite the fact that it aims to be egalitarian, sentencing is vastly different for African Americans. The bias is also there in employment". While neither she nor the other researchers advocate preemptive brain scanning at this time, she says we need to investigate how our implicit preferences are linked to the choices and decisions we make, and to use the resultant knowledge to reduce the unintended consequences of race bias.
The short conclusion from this research is that racism is natural. Some commenters to the Daily Mail story agree (after the jump):
RachelC , Plymouth, United Kingdom, 19/1/2013 02:39:
Are they going to try and say that racism is an illness? And begin synthesizing drugs to keep it at bay? What rubbish.
Furor Teutonicus, Berlin, Germany, 18/1/2013 17:18:
Aye. I am racist, and damn PROUD of the fact. Any one got any problems with that?
C J Ireland, Ireland, 18/1/2013 15:39:
These scientist have just proven that it is absolutely normal to be racist, it's born in us!!! Bids of a feather stick together, it's a very old saying and very true.
hillside, sydney, 18/1/2013 14:22:
I wonder whether this test will be developed for all races or just for white people.
John997, Hamilton, New Zealand, 18/1/2013 11:51:
Showing favour to ones own racial group and disfavour to another is a completely natural and a hard-wired part of human survival instinct, even though today it is labelled 'racist'. This is why even a baby in the first few months of life shows this tenancy, well before any socialisation can occur. What these people are trying to do is pathologise normal human behaviour in support of social engineering policies. It is agenda driven and totally unscientific. And yes, have studied this and am qualified to make this statement.
Watafarce, Sunken_city, 18/1/2013 7:26:
If 'racism' is hard-wired, then it perfectly natural. Ergo the word 'bigot' does not apply, but there's nothing so hypocritical as Liberal bigotry and it's censorship laws.