Unique—Like Everybody Else

Personality, intelligence, and the differences that matter

Facebook Usage and Easy Acceptance of Racism

A research study found that people who spend a lot of time on Facebook are more accepting of racist content than less frequent users. This may reflect an online culture of shallow information processing. Whether Facebook is more apt for spreading misinformation compared to other social media sites is not yet known. Read More

Are contrarian views on race questions equivalent to stupidity?

And is a fear of “reverse discrimination” a real indicator of racist ideology? I’m not sure. I concede that identity groups often have a “circle the wagons” mindset. But Rauch & Schanz, as your article presents them, must have defined belief in the existence of reverse discrimination as an element of racism—after acknowledgment that “master race” theories are considered intellectually bankrupt by most educated persons now. Our legal system, incidentally, makes a similar fiat by declaring that claims of discrimination, harassment, or hate crime can only be brought by members of legally protected groups.

I don’t believe that discrimination against whites is particularly widespread in the U.S. if only because this group still predominates numerically. But the sentiments which underlie racism are universal. If I went to Howard University (as a white) to apply for a job there, how likely would I be the one hired? Unlike some of the academics debating this issue, I've actually lived in majority-black Miami, Florida. Such personal experience doesn't prove anything, but it gave me a chance to learn how people talk amongst themselves when not in public forums where political correctness governs discourse.

Another thing I’m unsure of is the assumption that acceptance of racist ideology is an indicator for shallowness of information processing or lack of ability to think critically. The Nazis, who succeeded in taking over Germany via the electoral process, may well have been evil, but they were hardly stupid. One must reject racism on basis of a moral decision, not because of any supposed defects in its formal logical structures.

More intriguing is the finding itself—that Facebook users are apparently more conservative on racial issues than users of Twitter. I would not have guessed this, given that the formats of neither medium are conducive to extended written argument, with #Twitter @140 characters much the worse of the two for this purpose!

Addendum

To be fair, I should add that you never explicitly took any premises connecting racism to cognitive habits. "Need for cognition" was separately measured, and you mention that some experiment participants responded with agreement to contradictory racist and anti-racist messages.

But the study authors' choice to classify the "victim" message as cognitively sophisticated relative to the "superiority" message indeed suggests implicit or unstated assumptions made in the study--the ones I pointed out above.

If the research question concerned propensity for critical reflection, then I think a different controversy should have been used as the stimulus.

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Scott McGreal is a psychology researcher with a particular interest in individual differences, especially in personality and intelligence.

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