Go test your assumptions!
Jonathan Haidt mentions this website in his book, The Righteous Mind, and I decided to check it out. ProjectImplicit is a multi-university collaboration that exists “to foster dissemination and application of implicit social cognition. Project Implicit supports a collaborative network of researchers interested in basic and applied research concerning thoughts and feelings that occur outside of conscious awareness or control.”
They do this by a simple test, of showing you two words on either side of the screen (“male” and “female”, in the test I just took). Then they flash other words at you (“John”, “Anna”, “Jeffrey”) and ask you to sort them in the appropriate category as fast as possible. By having you repeatedly sort after introducing multiple categories, they test your implicit associations - the things you automatically group together without conscious thought. Then they rate these associations from “strong” to “weak”.
While I don’t have the mental wherewithal to really dig deeper into their website and research at the moment, this does have some pretty crazy applications. We may all like to think we’re perfectly rational, accepting creatures (at least on Tumblr, anyway) but we’re really, truly not. Not only are we subject to our familiar environments of our every day social life, but the wider cultural lens of it as well.
For example, I just tested out my implicit associations on gender and career. I’m a late-twenties woman with strong career aspirations in a predominantly female field, that frequently requires a Master’s level education. I’m feminist and liberal. You’d think I would have a strong association with women and careers, right?
I tested as strongly associating “male” and “career”, and “female” and “family”. While it didn’t surprise me - I’m pretty aware of that cognitive bias - I have to say I’m a little worried what the tests on race, skin tone, sexuality, alcohol, or self-esteem will show.
Go check it out, participate in some research, and surprise yourself.