June 02, 2015

Can we "deprogram" racism with a good night's sleep, tinkered with?

A new study claims that we can at least partially "deprogram" racist, sexist or other biases while people sleep. Now, the science website where I saw this caveats that nobody expects major change overnight. Rather, that this methodology is just a mild interventional help.

First, I definitely want to see replication. Otherwise, as it stands, it sounds too good to be true. You know, like the study that claimed door-to-door interaction could reduce people's anti-gay bias? Until that proved to have been faked.

Second, per the top link, you have to get people to admit they might be more biased than they consciously want to believe of themselves. Then, you have to get them to admit they're biased enough to need work like this. Then, you have to get them to do this not just for a few nights, but weeks, maybe even months. True bigots won't.

Third, per the link, maybe this is a psychological equivalent of "teaching to the text."

No wonder, per the cartoon, that Ted Rall is skeptical. Rightfully so.

How will we use this? I mean, to me, "Clockwork Orange" thoughts popped up immediately in my mind.

Again, for certain classes of liberals, like Cass Sunstein type social neoliberals and the use of behavioral "nudges," I'm sure this sounds great.

Not to me.

Even if my Clockwork Orange thoughts are a bit overblown, I don't think they are totally so.

As presented in the study, these aren't even Sunstein-level nudges. They're micronudges. To get to real nudge level, we probably would have to go halfway to Clockwork Orange.

And, who's going to decide who's worth of this treatment?

Let's not forget that, less than 100 years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States, in the name of a pseudoscientific American eugenics movement that influenced Nazi Germany, said it was OK to sterilize alleged "imbeciles."

Do you trust either the government or private counselors with something like this above, if it's hardcore?

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