Race Bias and Conception Risk: Implicit and Explicit Whiteness in Action

A recent article in a top psychology journal (“Race Bias Tracks Conception Risk Across the Menstrual Cycle” shows that women have more race bias when they are most at risk for conception. Further, it shows that race bias is even stronger if the woman feels more vulnerable to sexual coercion.

The study once again shows a difference between implicit and explicit race bias. Implicit bias is unconscious. Implicit bias was shown by subjects taking longer to associate negative words like ‘horrible’ or ‘evil’ with photos of Whites than with photos of Blacks. (You can take a similar test here to see if you have implicit biases toward Blacks; around 80% of Whites do)  The study is saying that White women are more likely to have unconscious negative thoughts about Blacks when they are ovulating and this is especially the case if they think they are vulnerable to being raped.

Explicit bias, on the other hand, is assessed by rating how strongly subjects endorse negative racial stereotypes of Blacks (e.g., ‘‘Generally, Blacks are not as smart as Whites’’; ‘‘It is likely that Blacks will bring violence to neighborhoods when they move in’’). People tend to give more socially acceptable answers on race bias items compared to their unconscious, implicit attitudes.

Usually the differences between conscious and unconscious race bias are very large — especially for liberals. Liberals are supreme hypocrites when it comes to race. My favorite is the White affirmative action officer at a university who was horrified to find that she had strong unconscious biases toward Blacks.  Unconscious biases have been shown to have subtle effects on behavior.

What was surprising here was that these White women were also more likely to explicitly endorse negative stereotypes of Blacks when they were ovulating. The effect was weaker than for unconscious attitudes, but it was in the same direction and nearly as strong as for unconscious attitudes — what statisticians call a trend.

In other words, the hormones that make them ovulate are also making them less politically correct. Their unconscious negative attitudes about Blacks are more likely to leak out in their conscious opinions. The primitive brain wins out over the politically correct censor in the higher part of the brain, so that they become more conscious of their negative attitudes toward Blacks. They would therefore be better able to consciously plan ways to avoid them.

The other two tests of race bias were also quite explicit. In fact, the strongest single predictor of conception risk was explicitly stated fear of Black males. The subjects rated how “scary” photos of Black men and White men were. In general, these White women found photos of Black men scarier around the time they are ovulating — especially if they feel vulnerable to rape.

This shows that despite all the propaganda to the contrary, White women retain defensive attitudes — both consciously and unconsciously — about Blacks as potential rapists. The authors suggest that this psychological mechanism may work by being sensitive to the stereotype that Blacks are dangerous. In other words, White women’s evolutionary psychology is making them behave adaptively based on the stereotype that Blacks are more likely to rape. It works by making them avoid Black men, especially if they are ovulating and especially if they are in a situation where there is a danger of rape. And it is making them more conscious of the real threats posed by Black men and less likely to suppress these attitudes in order to be socially acceptable.

Of course, the stereotype has more than a grain of truth: The 2005 FBI Uniform Crime Report show that though Blacks are only 12.4% of the US population, they commit 33.6% of the rapes of White females.

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