Fighting Prejudice Through Imitation

Michael Inzlicht, EurekAlert, October 3, 2011

New research shows that you can reduce racial prejudice simply by having a person mimic the movements of a member of the race he or she is prejudiced against. The method may work by activating brain mechanisms that contribute to feelings of empathy.

Normally, when we watch another person perform an action, our brain activity changes as we mentally simulate the other person. But the brain activity is less strong when we’re watching people from other racial groups, and is least strong among people who are prejudiced against the racial group.

Michael Inzlicht, professor in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) and affiliate faculty at the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto, wondered if he could turn that around. If prejudice reduces mental simulation, can physical simulation, or mimicry, reduce prejudice? It turns out that it can.

“We’ve shown that when people mimic others who belong to a different race than their own they tend to be less prejudiced toward that race,” Inzlicht says.

Inzlicht, along with Jennifer N. Gutsell and Lisa Legault, also of UTSC, divided 63 white students into three groups and had them watch a video of a person repeatedly reaching for a bottle and taking a drink of water. One group watched a video with a black actor, and group members were instructed to mimic his movements. For comparison, another group mimicked the movements of a white actor, and the third group simply watched a black actor. After the video, the group that had mimicked the black actor scored lower on a test of implicit prejudice against black people than either of the other two groups.

Previous research has shown that we experience “motor resonance” when we watch other people perform an action. For instance, in prior research, Inzlicht and Gutsell measured electroencephalographic (EEG) oscillations in the motor cortex that occurred while watching other people perform actions. The study showed that motor resonance was stronger in white people when they watched other white people, compared to watching blacks or South Asians.

Although the mechanism isn’t certain, it’s possible that physically mimicking someone activates the same brain mechanisms that are normally activated when someone watches a member of his or her own race, inspiring the missing feeling of empathy and reducing prejudice.

This study did not directly measure motor resonance. Instead, the researchers used a test that measured levels of implicit prejudice. During the test, an image of a black or white face is flashed on a screen for 75 milliseconds, followed by an image of an unfamiliar pictogram. Test-takers are asked whether they liked the pictogram or not. In fact, their answers really reveal their feelings about members of the other race.

Inzlicht thinks that the reduction in prejudice he saw in his study is likely only short-term, since it was based on mimicking movements for only 140 seconds. But he thinks mimicry over the longer term might make more permanent changes. He’s planning on studying athletes to see if he can find any changes caused by coordinating movements with teammates of a different race.

The study will be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and is available online.

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  • Paleface 6

    “…Inzlicht, along with Jennifer N. Gutsell and Lisa Legault, also of UTSC, divided 63 white students into three groups and had them watch a video of a person repeatedly reaching for a bottle and taking a drink of water. One group watched a video with a black actor, and group members were instructed to mimic his movements. For comparison, another group mimicked the movements of a white actor, and the third group simply watched a black actor…”

    So the results stayed the same when the blacks observed Whites, right? No? Who would have thought THAT?

    But I can confirm one thing: After years of putting up with their atrocious behavior, their constant whining, and their predatory instincts to do harm to Whites, many Whites DO lack empathy for blacks. They’ve had it beaten out of them, in some cases literally.

  • Anonymous

    Well, the white teenagers I see already are practiced in the “pimp walk,” so I guess racism’s days will soon be over.

  • Question Diversity

    Translation: If all the whites just simply became w*****s, then all “racism and prejudice” will disappear and we’ll be living in truly equal Harrison Bergeron style paradise.

  • Awakened

    I think that it can be truly said the psychologists are almost invariably located far to the Left. Could this be a veiled attempt at beseeching Whites to start acting even more like Blacks than they do now? I mean, more and more White youth are dressing like Blacks, talking like Blacks, getting low grades in school like Blacks, listening to Black Rap music. White girls are shown the way by networks like MTV that they must have sex with Black Males, now we’re even getting directives from so-called “psychologists” that we should “Act” Black? How sick and depraved is it going to get?

  • tony Soprano

    Now how does this person overcome his prejudice which he has about the fact that he thinks white people are prejudiced against black people.As far as I am concerned black people are more prejudiced against white people than white people are against black people. Or maybe I am being prejudiced. You know I could go in circles all night about this subject. Or I could simply call this person a Hypocrite.

  • sociobiologist under distress

    If you took the time to read this post, you owe it to yourself and the White Humanity within you to read Anthony Jacob’s White Man, Think Again!

  • Tacitus

    I hope this doesn’t mean mandatory hip hop lessons in public schools . . .

  • olewhitelady

    Gee, I didn’t realize that blacks drink water differently than whites. Maybe we need separate fountains after all!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve given up on White Humanity’s survival instinct. We are more dedicated to giving away everything to those who hate us and don’t deserve anything from us but contempt and more contempt.

    But what is more offensive, White’s wasting their time trying to teach Africanisms to be White, or White’s learning how to be as opposite of White as possible.

    When Whites invest themselves in raising blacks up one level, they discriminate against themselves by the loss of the ten levels of achievement they lost while caring for the blacks. That is voluntary dispossession. That’s definitely worse than Whites deciding to act like blacks. At least they don’t do it while fighting against the iron laws of nature and trying to change the leopard’s spots. The effect is more immediate and maybe not as long lasting. Therefore, if White Humanity insists on its own degradation, we prefer the “acting black” way instead of the “more outreach” way.

    “Prejudice renders a man’s virtue his habit, not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, a man’s duty becomes a part of his nature.” Edmund Burke.

    If only…

  • Jeddermann.

    Wh….r! Imitate the Bantu in all manner. Dress the same, walk the same, talk the same, like the same music, like to rap or at least try to. Back in my day it was wearing sunglasses at night and all that. NOW much more complex.

  • Anonymous

    “Inzlicht thinks that the reduction in prejudice he saw in his study is likely only short-term, since it was based on mimicking movements for only 140 seconds. But he thinks mimicry over the longer term might make more permanent changes.”

    Yes. They become what is known as wiggers. After the movements, comes the other behaviors.

  • GenX ANZAC

    Looking at humanity broadly, I’d agree that’s our relatable similarities that connect us (mimicking biomechanical movements though?) which I suppose is good for social cohesion (although there are other preventative ways of avoiding such problems), but it is our distinguishable differences and abilities that define us and how we can uniquely contribute to humanities overall collective achievement.

    Surely every group has its own inherent strengths and weakness, and it’s within those groups and their strengths, that the world gets its occasional truly exceptional individuals such as its Albert Einstein’s or Michael Jordan’s who are the pinnacle of those groups’ abilities.

    Greatness or value, comes from being able to do something that others can’t, right?

    Though acquiring (perceived?) parity on the cognitive and intellectual levels seems to be the only goal of the social engineers (as brains=money=power).

    By trying to say that everyone can potentially do everything everyone else can do (when they can’t), would only work if everyone is dumbed down to the same level (if you can’t go faster, make the other guys go slower, so we all go slow).

    To be exceptional beyond your group’s traditional strengths I’d imagine you’d surely require a boost beyond the ‘nurture’ alone pathway.

    Anyway if everyone had the exact same abilities, nobody would have any individual value and where’s the damn diversity?

  • Urban Teacher

    So if we copy blacks, we will like them better in the short-term?

    On the other hand, if they copied us, we would probably like them better in the long-term.

  • Gerald Martin

    This is far more sinister than the watered down report cited here. Go to http://webapps.utsc.utoronto.ca/ose/story.php?id=1166 or as posted at http://cofcc.org. Note the following sentence: “ULTIMATELY IT WILL REQUIRE A NUMBER OF COGNITIVE AND SOCIOCULTURAL STUDIES AND TECHNIQUES TO ACTUALLY ERADICATE PREJUDICE.”

    Oh really? What “techniques” might those be, I wonder? I imagine putting us up against the wall is one.

    No doubt somewhat kinder & gentler “techniques” will soon be coming to an elementary school and employee sensitivity training session near you.

  • Stiv

    The simple translation is: to a certain degree, become black, lose yourself in the black experience. Forget what comes naturally to you if you’re white. There is a segment of white people, mostly male, who have already taken it much further and immersed themselves in “black movements” and mentality completely.

  • Tom S.

    Good God, all the problems in the world and they do a study ON THIS! Like they say – liberalism is a mental disease!

    *Inzlicht, along with Jennifer N. Gutsell and Lisa Legault, also of UTSC, divided 63 white students into three groups-

    Notice they only used WHITE students to do this study. I guess non-Whites don’t have any prejudice to get over.

    *But he thinks mimicry over the longer term might make more permanent changes.

    Yes and they’re called wiggers!

  • Ethic gnome

    “During the test, an image of a black or white face is flashed on a screen for 75 milliseconds, followed by an image of an unfamiliar pictogram. Test-takers are asked whether they liked the pictogram or not. In fact, their answers really reveal their feelings about members of the other race.”

    Is that so? Is there hard scientific proof that this is a valid test?

  • Anonymous

    The method may work by activating brain mechanisms that contribute to feelings of empathy . . .

    . . . or then again it might be that if my pants are down around my ankles when I walk, I’ll be too preoccupied to think about anything else.

  • Rhialto

    I do not have the knowledge to comment on the test, but I notice a a major deficiency. Only white college students were subjected to the test. Why weren’t other groups used: blacks, browns, yellows; children, senile citizens, menopausal esquimaux, etc. Also, these groups should have been tested against the other groups to form a matrix. I must give the simple white on black test a grade of incomplete.

  • Anonymous

    *New research shows that you can reduce racial prejudice simply by having a person mimic the movements of a member of the race he or she is prejudiced against.

    But yet when White college students have a “ghetto party” where they dress and act black, they’re accused of being “raciss” and stereotyping blacks!

  • Anonymous

    Terrific idea! I believe I will find a few women to impregnate and then abandon, willingly or not. Fat white women, of course. Then I’ll pick up a few bottles of Colt 45 and a carton of Kools, and lay around all day complaining about “Whitey.”

  • Boethius

    So that’s why the entertainment industry had us all doing the Bougaloo back in the 60’s!

  • Lauren

    “We’ve shown that when people mimic others who belong to a different race than their own they tend to be less prejudiced toward that race,” Inzlicht says.

    _____________

    Inzlicht is telling the truth, although probably not in the way intended. The word ‘Prejudice’ merely describes a state of one’s having pre-judged. Prejudice can be positive as well as it can be negative. When prejudice regarding an entity is negative, a person is said to be “…prejudiced AGAINST…”. Thus, when a person’s prejudice regarding an entity is positive, it logically follows that he or she could be said to be “…prejudiced TOWARD…” (‘toward’ being antonymic to ‘against’).

    So, I have to agree with Inzlicht. Mimicking others is an excellent way to reduce positive prejudice TOWARD them.

  • Anonymous

    If whites mimicked blacks then there would be no civilization left. Words would become unintelligible. At least there would be more whites though, what with the out of wedlock births of blacks. Although, the extra whites would be busy raping and murdering one another like blacks do to themselves and to whites. Everything would become absurd and silly. Plus, would that really benefit blacks? Whites would have to blame everything on black people and expect a handout from blacks on everything from housing, jobs, to education. We would also have to blame our crime on them.

    The government would have to then kowtow to white people. We would also need a holiday for some great white leader. But not any white leader. An immoral, lying person who is mythologized by the media. Then that person would need their own statue in Washington D.C.

    If we didn’t get our way we could then just riot. Using that as a cover to loot and attack black people.

    Belts would have to be outlawed of course. Bling and tattoes would become mandatory. Along with some sort of facial hair, you couldn’t be clean shaven.

    Get a few white Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons to complain about Everything that blacks did. And they would get rich doing it. Along with having the NAAWP and WET tv. The K could march everywhere, even blocking voting places. Of course the White President who was born in Germany would not prosecute them. He would also be seen in a rally with them.

    And let’s not forget the white million man march. Where members from the K, skinheads, and neo nazis would speak.

    Plus, we need a popular white football player to murder two blacks, and then have an all white jury acquit him even when the evidence is overwhelming.

    Yes, that might be interesting.

  • Anonymous

    “But the brain activity is less strong when we’re watching people from other racial groups, and is least strong among people who are prejudiced against the racial group”.

    Why not perform this test and gauge the reaction of persons of color? Might the prejudice meter run off the scale? That would be a more interesting test especially since this very school teaches people of color to be as ‘educated’ on the matter as possible.

  • Allan

    What this article seems to be saying is that we must lower our standards to those of the Black community. No wonder there is such an increase in home-schooling among Whites. Whites want their children to learn and become useful citizens, not just to take, take, take.

  • Spartan24

    When I was a child and did anything my grandfather considered “black” I would get in trouble and sometimes earned a spanking. It was never as overt as the “wigg*rs” I am now seeing- I would have probably been thrown out of the house if I had even thought of this kind of behavior. Unfortunately most parents these days (the ones with the public school indoctrination that is) would either look the other way or applaud the immitations. It is not just kids in school either- notice how commercials have been playing to the lowest common denominator. Even luxury items have been ghettoized and made to appeal to this segment of their customer base.

  • Anonymous

    Is there a reason why blacks aren’t trying to follow the White man’s lead on how to behave in all social settings, as well as fiscally?

    We are asked to follow the blacks into the Jungle and act like them. I’ll pass.

  • vaportrail

    Why not just mimic a wild shrieking chimpanzee?

  • Question Diversity

    This solution is untenable. America can only handle one Eminem; we don’t need 200 million versions of him.

  • Anonymous

    “We’ve shown that when people mimic others who belong to a different race than their own they tend to be less prejudiced toward that race,” Inzlicht says.

    ———————————-

    Check out who this “professor” Inzlicht guy really is….

    “While Inzlicht says white people must undergo this intense brainwashing to “empathize” with blacks, he sees nothing wrong with being a Jewish chauvinist himself. Inzlicht says that being Jewish gives him insight into the issue that other people don’t have”.

    Maybe he is targeting the wrong race of people.

  • Anonymous

    22 — Boethius wrote at 12:19 AM on October 5:

    “So that’s why the entertainment industry had us all doing the Bougaloo back in the 60’s!”

    > Not so fast. It goes back at least to the 30s and “The Jitterbug.” But it likely goes all the back to those 19th century minstrel shows in blackface, and then Al Jolson imitating blacks in “The Jazz Singer.” (Just imagine a Jew in blackface singing “Mammy” today!) Which is where Inzlicht got his ideas it appears from a little though of Jewish tradition of superficial imitation in order to fit in.

  • Anonymous

    32 — Anonymous wrote at 3:03 PM on October 6:

    22 — Boethius wrote at 12:19 AM on October 5:

    “So that’s why the entertainment industry had us all doing the Bougaloo back in the 60’s!”

    > Not so fast. It goes back at least to the 30s and “The Jitterbug.” But it likely goes all the back to those 19th century minstrel shows in blackface, and then Al Jolson imitating blacks in “The Jazz Singer.” (Just imagine a Jew in blackface singing “Mammy” today!) Which is where Inzlicht got his ideas it appears from a little though of Jewish tradition of superficial imitation in order to fit in.

    —————————–

    Here is a link to the man.

    http://webapps.utsc.utoronto.ca/ose/story.php?id=1166