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

RCMP track down vehicle used in Penticton hit and run

Penticton RCMP are asking for any witnesses to a hit and run incident to come forward

Fast-paced South Okanagan fundraiser guaranteed to thrill

Area 27 motorsports club members are offering the ride of a lifetime in support of OSNS

Wrestling legend finds his wedding dance groove in Penticton

Professional wrestler Chris Jericho posted on social media that he was in Penticton recently

Lightning causes three wildfires east of Osoyoos

It is believed the fires started by a lightning storm

Okanagan RCMP officers detain a driver in handcuffs

Penticton RCMP officers pulled over a vehicle and handcuffed the driver as they searched the car

Practice makes perfect for Penticton’s Peach Classic triathlon winner

Over 300 triathletes competed in the 36th edition of the Peach City Classic Triathlon Sunday.

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: cloudy, showers, thunderstorm risk expected

Environment Canada is calling for a risk of thunderstorms and showers across the Okanagan today

Backyard fundraiser raises over $40,000 for Foundry Kelowna, CMHA

‘The message was really about treating mental health like any other illness’

Crash closes Highway 1 near Tappen

The collision happened about 3:30 p.m. by James Road

Air ambulance called to second collision on Highway 1 west of Salmon Arm

Emergency crews respond to motor-vehicle collision near Second Nations Road intersection

Overdoses overwhelming in B.C. Interior

Part two: Who’s affected by the current opioid crisis

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Kelowna cab driver charged with sexual assault

RCMP received a report May 28 alleging a taxi passenger had been sexually assaulted by a cab driver

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Most Read