07/20 They All Look the Same to Me: Reducing Own Race Bias

Race is a touchy topic, partly because, as we explored in our last newsletter, it brings up so many taboos.  One of those is the challenging notion that people of other races “all look the same to me”.  Clinically that is known as Own Race Bias (ORB).  Although many of us, whatever our racial identity, might wish that we didn’t have ORB, it appears to be universal.  Simply put, we identify members of our own race more quickly and easily than people of other races.  Interesting to note too that we categorize people by their race more quickly than by their gender or age.

It may be discouraging–realizing that this tendency to “other” people of different races is not just anecdotal.  It’s a real thing.  However, the good news is that ORB can be reduced by making people feel good.  How easy and simple is that?! This is based on research from psychologist Kareem Johnson in collaboration with one of our favorite positive psychologists, Barbara Fredrickson.  Johnson and Fredrickson conducted a study in which they induced laughter in some of their subjects and not in others.  The participants who experienced humor recognized people from other races more quickly and easily than they had before the experiment.

The theory behind this is that positive emotions broaden our perceptions and foster more inclusive thinking.  In other words, they open our minds and make us less likely to differentiate ourselves from others and more likely to experience more of an “in-group” identity.  Most simply put, they make us go from “us and them” to “us and us”.

Click here for more on Fredrickson and Johnson’s seminal work on positive emotions and ORB.  We also offer you a useful handout that goes into more of the benefits of positive emotions and ways to experience them more often.

We encourage you to notice in general how, when you feel better, you are generally more receptive to “others” and then notice how that impacts your experience of Other Race Bias.

Blessings and love to you all, Rebecca and Gioia 

Art directive
We are experimenting with this directive so you will be the first to try it out.  Pick some random magazines around your house and flip through them.  Notice your responses to people of your own race and people of other races.  Then listen to this short Love Kindness Meditation (LKM) and make a collage with some of the faces you saw in the magazines.  Notice if you respond differently to those characters after the LKM, both the ones from your own race and those of others.   We’d be very curious to hear your reaction to this directive since