The Bigoted Brain

31 10 2007


For me, real bigotry begins with the hubris and arrogance of those like Bill O’Reilly who insist that their assessment of others is purely based upon reason and conscious deliberation, as opposed to being colored by involuntary and unrecognized elements of prejudice. For us to treat others with real trust, we must begin by acknowledging our biases and consciously doing the hard mental work to overcome them. We may not be able to prevent biased opinions from arising, but we do retain the veto power over whether to believe in and act on them.

We are left with two options. We can pretend we are free of bias, and avoid thinking about how to deal with our own deeply ingrained tendency to discriminate. Or we can take a lesson from neuroscience, and even from dumb computer agents, which can switch from noncooperation to cooperation if they learn that it is in their best interests.

The article deals with new evidence supporting the idea that there is a biological process behind bigotry.  I would say that it is sensationalistic to put it like that – there is in fact a biological process behind recognition of differences – that doesn’t translate necessarily to hate.  Today, hate is primarily a result of nurture, not nature.




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