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3 Surprising New Targets of Prejudice

3 New Targets of Prejudice

Many people face prejudice, from ethnic minorities to the overweight. But recent studies have identified a few new targets of discrimination: Take, for example, atheists. Research by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found that atheists are deemed about as trustworthy as rapists-a bias based on "the belief that people behave better if they feel that God is watching them," according to study author Will Gervais from the University of British Columbia.

Another recent study in the Journal of Applied Psychology titled "Discrimination Against Facially Stigmatized Applicants In Interviews" found that employers discriminate against hiring people with facial blemishes like birthmarks, scars, and port wine stains. It's not that the interviewers were thinking God I can't stand looking at this person every day. They were just so distracted by the facial blemish that they recalled less information about these job candidates. "When evaluating applicants in an interview setting, it's important to remember what they are saying," says study author Mikki Hebl of Rice University. "Our research shows if you recall less information about competent candidates because you are distracted by characteristics on their face, it decreases your overall evaluations of them."

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More surprising still, a study by Psychological Science found that employers have a bias against creative people. In the study, titled "The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire But Reject Creative Ideas," Jennifer Mueller at the University of Pennsylvania found that when people feel uncertain or anxious, they're unable to recognize and applaud off-the-wall solutions to problems. "Our findings imply a deep irony," Mueller writes. "Prior research shows that uncertainty spurs the search for and generation of creative ideas, yet our findings reveal that uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most."

All of which suggests that none of us are as open-minded and unprejudiced as we think. So if you ever find yourself face-to-face with an atheist, or someone with a big zit on their face, or someone who says "Hey I've got a crazy idea..." cut them some slack and give them a chance.


Judy Dutton writes about the quirkier, conversation-worthy discoveries coming out of laboratories today. She's the author of Secrets from the Sex Lab and Science Fair Season.


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