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

Educational Family Day fun at the Quesnel Museum and Archives

The museum provided games, scavenger hunts, snacks, a dress-up chest and free admission

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

Quesnel ringette player excited to help Team B.C.

Katie Young will play centre for the squad at 2019 Canada Winter Games

Ranch Musings: What a wonderful long weekend in Williams Lake

Columnist David Zirnhelt is feeling hopeful after attending the Young Agrarians mixer

Editorial: The best of intentions

Laying out a plan doesn’t mean it happens quickly

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

Most Read