AFP PODCAST & ARTICLE: Does The Media Cause Racism, Or Does It Simply Report It?

Racism and the Media

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AMERICAN FREE PRESS interviews a husband and wife scientific team in Georgia about their study which posits that racist attitudes are not instinctual, but learned, predominantly from the mainstream media.

Some very interesting observations were gleaned from the study, including surprising black racist attitudes towards blacks.

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Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.

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Does The Media Cause Racism, Or Does It Simply Report It?

Pair of scientists use experiment to show impact of media on racial views

By Dave Gahary

A husband and wife scientific team in Georgia presented the results of a study that they claim proves that racist attitudes are not instinctual, but learned, predominantly from the mainstream media.

Paul Verhaeghen, Associate Professor of Psychology at Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Psychology and Shelley Aikman, Associate Professor of Psychology at Gainsville State College, conducted an exclusive interview with AMERICAN FREE PRESS to discuss the results of the study.

AFP asked what inspired the study, since this wasn’t an area of their expertise. Professor Verhaeghen, a native of Belgium, was curious “why students tend to cluster in groups.”

“You have the black students in one part of the auditorium and you have the white students in another part,” he explained, “which to me always looked very strange. And those groups don’t interact with each other very much.”

Professor Verhaeghen described two types of racism: the very blatant kind and the “gut level” kind. The study focused on this gut level type of racism. “This kind of gut level racism seems to be part of almost everybody’s makeup, including black people,” he explained.

To demonstrate his theory, he conducted a test with some students “to see how quickly you associate white with good things and black with bad things.”

“The black students were very upset because they were finding out they were having a racist bias against black people just as much, or a little bit less, as whites students seem to have, which completely doesn’t make sense,” Verhaeghen said. “The really strange thing,” he continued, “is that blacks also associate blacks not whites, with violence.”

The test, which used only words and no pictures, employed something known as “priming,” where additional words are introduced to alter the outcome of the study. For example, seeing the words “black” and “gun” would elicit a different response from seeing just the word “gun” by itself.

“The idea with priming,” explained Professor Aikman, “is that you’re basically making them think of all their stereotypes, you’re making them accessible, so that when the next word comes up, they’ll respond quickly to it.”

The test utilized BEAGLE, the Bound Encoding of the Aggregate Language Environment, that contains a sample of books, newspaper and magazine articles, containing over 10M words, which psychologists feel are representative of what Americans consume.