The Effect of Empathy on Implicit Bias

Chelsea Beckford, Bard College

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The current study, investigates the influence of media on implicit biases through the mediating factor of empathy. The hypothesis was that participants that read passages that invoked empathy for either Blacks or police would experience a change in their implicit bias towards both groups (Blacks and police). Bard undergraduates read one of three passages (Black empathy, police empathy or control). The passages were created to manipulate empathy in the participants for Blacks, police or for neither group. Then they completed three Implicit Association Tests that measured their implicit biases towards flowers compared to insects, Black people compared to White people and police compared to other professions. Analyses showed that there was a main effect of Black empathy condition on the Race IAT; participants that read both of the empathy passages had more implicit preference for Whites over Blacks than participants in the control condition. There was no main effect of condition (passage) on empathy. Limitations and future directions are discussed.