Victoria woman Tessa Charlesworth published a study on implicit and explicit bias. (Facebook)

B.C. woman’s research says we’re less biased on race, more biased on weight

Victoria woman’s research shows how attitudes have shifted over time

A Victoria woman’s research has revealed that bias towards overweight people has increased, while attitudes towards race and sexuality have gone down.

Victoria local and Esquimalt High School grad Tessa Charlesworth went from one coast to another to study at Harvard University where, as a graduate student in the department of psychology, she and colleague Mahzarin Banaji used data from a long-running internet test to make incredible findings in the field of prejudice and bias.

The Implicit Association Test (IAT) has been running since 2004 and reveals both the “implicit” (internal bias) and “explicit” (conscious bias) of respondents – in other words, the outward and inward levels of prejudice people have against others based on skin tone, race, age, disability and body weight.

Implicit bias tests measured the length of time respondents took to press a specific key to categorize pairs of words in relation to social groups and attributes. For example – the word “good” would be assigned to either an image of a black or white person and researchers would compare how long it took for participants to respond based on the assigned category.

Participants also self-reported their associations – revealing their “explicit” or conscious biases.

RELATED: Trudeau says anti-black racism exists in Canada

RELATED: Racism runs wild online after truck driver damages B.C. bridge

RELATED: Yelling vulgar slur at reporter not a crime says judge

Charlesworth collected over four million results from 2004 to 2016 and found that outwardly, self-reported bias towards all social groups and abilities had shifted towards neutral and inwardly, people’s bias towards race, skin tone and sexuality had also decreased.

But notably, bias towards elderly people and disabled people was basically the same, and bias towards overweight people had actually worsened – a contrast from the participant’s conscious responses.

Charlesworth has a few ideas about what the results might mean.

She speculated the ongoing social push against the obesity epidemic could have something to do with body weight perceptions.

“It paints overweight individuals in a really negative light,” she said. “It paints them as a public health crisis.”

But Charlesworth also noted that body weight is the only data set that participants perceived as controllable.

“That assigns a lot of responsibility to people who are overweight to change themselves – rather than the person who is perceiving the overweight individual to change their mind,” she said.

When it comes to areas where bias decreased, Charlesworth points to social priorities. She and her colleague actually looked at Google searches and found that there were far more conversations happening around homophobia and racism than ageism, ableism or sizeism.

“So we think that the more we’re talking about these biases and social problems, the more opportunities we have to make change,” she concluded. “It’s very simple: the more times we try to change our attitudes, the more likely we are to succeed in changing them.”

Charlesworth said she hopes to have career in academics – preferably back on the West Coast.

Charlesworth and Banaji’s study was published in Psychological Science.

RELATED: 10 B.C. cities to pilot new program against childhood obesity

RELATED: Viral video of B.C. woman’s rant make it hard to deny racism, advocate says

RELATED: Girls face sexism as early as 10 years old: Girl Guides poll



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Comox votes to ban single-use plastics from town

Following Cumberland and Courtenay, the Town of Comox is the next community… Continue reading

RCMP deploys special unit in Comox Valley to combat organized crime

Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit spends four days targeting organized crime in Courtenay

Local ham radio club hosting Field Day at Filberg in Comox

Every June, more than 40,000 ham radio operators throughout North America set… Continue reading

Major renovations planned for Washington Inn Apartments in Courtenay

Province doles out nearly $5 million affordable rental accommodation project

Curious Comox Valley – What would you like answered?

It appears that Comox Valley residents have a lot on their mind… Continue reading

VIDEO: Rare white killer whale captured by drone near Campbell River

The transient orca has been named Tl’uk, a Coast Salish word that means ‘moon.’

B.C.-born Carey Price brings young fan to tears at NHL Awards banquet

Anderson Whitehead first met his hockey idol after his mother died of cancer

Licence issue delays boozing while cruising on BC Ferries

Planned June launch for alcohol sales delayed

Nanaimo a prime market for new plane, Air Canada says

Vice-president previews Airbus A220, praises Nanaimo’s growth in passenger numbers

B.C. school mourns after 13-year-old killed by fallen tree on field trip

Teenager died after being struck and pinned by tree while on a field trip near Sooke

‘Growing pains’ not linked with Junction: Hillian

It was only a matter of days before a waitlist of prospective… Continue reading

B.C. temporarily halts resource development to protect caribou

The caribou population in northeastern B.C. has dwindled over the last two decades

Students disciplined after anti-LGBTQ signs posted in Kamloops high school

Vessy Mochikas, SD73’s principal for inclusive education, called incident a learning opportunity

Most Read