From The Atlantic:
How Intelligence Leads to StereotypingOr by reading articles in The Atlantic reporting social science findings, as I’ve been doing since 1972.
A new study complicates the trope of the stupid bigot.
OLGA KHAZAN JUL 29, 2017 SCIENCE
… Racists stereotype other people, for the most part, but there are also stereotypes about racists. And the stereotype about racists is that, well, they’re kind of dumb.
But a new study complicates the narrative that only unintelligent people are prejudiced. The paper, published recently in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, suggests smart people are actually more at risk of stereotyping others.
The study consisted of a series of experiments, all of which suggested that people who performed better on a test of pattern detection—a measure of cognitive ability—were also quicker to form and apply stereotypes.
First, researchers from New York University showed 271 participants a series of pictures of red, blue, and yellow cartoon aliens with different facial features, paired with a statement of either a nice behavior (“gave another alien a bouquet of flowers”) or a rude one (“spat in another alien’s face”):
… The subjects didn’t know if the statements about the aliens were true or false. In this way, the study tried to mimic how people actually form prejudices about certain groups, like through anecdotes in the media or through portrayals in TV shows.
Later, the subjects were asked to pick which alien had committed a given behavior from a lineup…I.e., an IQ test. In fact, it’s probably the IQ Enthusiast’s IQ Test.
The participants then took a test called the Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices, a pattern-based exam that’s a common measure of human intelligence.
The participants who were better pattern detectors were more likely to make stereotypical errors: …For example, in 1972, the latest information seemed to show that African-Americans were good at basketball, running the football, sprinting, popular music, comedy, and popular dance. But since then, new information has become available that shows that the stereotypes that African-Americans are relatively good at these things on average is wrong. As we now know after 45 years of more information, African-Americans instead are great at those stereotypical black activities.
A second study showed similar results, but for measures of implicit bias. That is, smarter participants were quicker to stereotype the aliens in the course of a word-sorting task, even if they didn’t realize they were doing it. …
These depressing results suggest there’s a downside to being smart—it makes you risk reading too much into a situation and drawing inappropriate conclusions. But there’s hope. In the second part of the study, the researchers showed that while smart people learn and apply stereotypes more eagerly, they also unlearn those stereotypes quickly in the face of new information.