Friday, May 29, 2015

An unbiased view of sleep

Implicit biases -- those stereotypes about gender, race, age and ethnicity that you might never own up to but which nevertheless color your reactions to people and situations -- are laid down early, and they are surprisingly hard to break.

In a study published Thursday in Science, psychologists from Northwestern University note that although a systematic retraining session can begin to undo implicit biases, its impact is fragile and fleeting. With just a nudge -- a news report, a personal interaction that supports a long-held implicit bias or just the passage of time -- the effects of training aimed at countering such unconscious prejudice disappear.

The new research finds, however, that adding sleep to the mix -- and subtly reinforcing the retraining during subsequent sleep -- helped stamp out implicit bias robustly and enduringly in experimental subjects. When participants slept soundly after viewing a series of images designed to counter implicit bias, and got a subtle reminder of that learning during their sleep, their implicit biases were more clearly unlearned. And those prejudices stay unlearned for longer, the study found.


Thanks to:

Xiaoqing Hu , James W. Antony, Jessica D. Creery, Iliana M. Vargas, Galen V. Bodenhausen, Ken A. Paller.  Unlearning implicit social biases during sleep.  Science Vol. 348 no. 6238 pp. 1013-1015


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