Scientific American: Discrimination Persists in Society—but Who Discriminates?

Markus Brauer

Americans are becoming more tolerant of people of different races, ethnicities and sexual orientations, recent research indicates. Yet discrimination toward people in marginalized groups persists at disturbingly high levels. Scientists have proposed two hypotheses to explain this apparent paradox. The dispersed discrimination account holds that, because of implicit biases, most people—even those who hold strong egalitarian beliefs—regularly engage in subtle but still harmful acts of discrimination, albeit with little or no awareness. The concentrated discrimination account counters that a numerical minority of “bad actors”—highly and explicitly biased people—are responsible for most discriminatory acts.

Mitchell Campbell

These competing hypotheses lead to different recommendations about how to effectively combat discrimination in businesses, universities, the military and other organizations. If the dispersed discrimination account is correct, then arguably everyone in a given organization should undergo training to reduce implicit bias. If the concentrated discrimination account is true, then this type of training is unlikely to reduce discrimination in the organization, and policies should target explicit bias in a relatively small number of bad actors. A new study published by social psychologists Mitchell Campbell and Markus Brauer, both then at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, tested these hypotheses through a series of survey studies and field experiments involving 16,600 students at the university. The results overwhelmingly supported the concentrated discrimination account, challenging the view that the main problem is implicit bias….

Read the full article at Scientific American.

September 21, 2021