Implicit Awareness Tests

In one 2006 study (From American City to Japanese Village) conducted at Harvard University, researchers Yarrow Durham, Andrew Scott Baron, and Mahzarin R. Banaji conducted research on the implicit and explicit nature of racial attitudes of children between the ages of 6 and 10 and adults.  In this particular study, the researchers examined the changes in the implicit and explicit race-based attitudes of White middle-class children and adults.  The groups focused on in this study were children of either Japanese or Black descent.  A second aspect of this study was conducted in rural Japan and continued to understand both the implicit and explicit racial attitudes of Japanese children and their racial awareness and preferences for members of their in-group versus out-group preferences (black children). 

        One of the main findings of this research is that implicit racial awareness emerges early, but begins to decease as the individual ages.   Implicitly, there is an age related decrease in White over Japanese implicit racial attitudes; however, this is not the case of White over Black implicit preferences.  White over both Japanese and Black preferences showed age related explicit in-group preferences, but both decrease with age, showing that in explicit group preferences notable differences emerge between children and adults.   In short, test-type matters; White-Black and White-Japanese tests showed differences in in-group preferences particularly when the out-group being tested is Blacks.

        In another aspect of this study, similar implicit and explicit tests were given to children and adults in rural Japan.  In the case of children, implicit and explicit racial attitudes and preferences showed similar results as the children and adults in the United States.  In-group preferences were stronger in younger children and decreases some with age, but the trend remains that shows stronger in-group preferences when the out-group being compared is Black. 

        While the Implicit Awareness Tests are useful in their explanations of racial awareness in children, there are several things that the researchers should consider.  In the aforementioned study, the authors made no mention of the historical aspect of race awareness and attitudes as it pertains to the United States.  Most of the attitudes found in their analysis have in fact been instrumental in the foundation of American society; a society that was founded on racial oppression and principles.  Indeed, the consequences of the historical aspect of U.S. racial relations are still apparent in most major institutions of American society; racist attitudes and in-group preferences are often used in the process to reproduce the existing racial structure.

        Another avenue the researchers may want to consider is the use of existing sociological research and terminology to gain a more structural and encompassing approach to understanding implicit (and explicit) racial attitudes instead of their existing individualistic approach.  Some past research by Debra Van Ausdale and Joe Feagin in particular as well as other sociologists have touched significantly on this topic; children are aware of racial/ethnic concepts and ideologies.  In the work of Van Ausdale and Feagin, the researchers observed an implicit and explicit racial and ethnic awareness at even younger ages; some children were four-year olds.  Some major conceptual ideas can be gained through sociological research; institutional racism and systemic racism are two suggestions that can enhance their existing research in this case.      �

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