Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Social Fear = basis of racism?

Intriguing findings from this Science article about possible connections between social fear, genetics, and racist responses. The authors theorize that racist responses are more closely tied to an in-born social fear (out group bias) than they are to specific learned responses to race, and they use a group of children born with Williams Syndrome to try to test the idea. Kids with Williams Syndrome lack a few genes that are related to social fear, causing them to ber very sociable and have no fear of strangers (sometimes called "cocktail party personality").

This research could be a good place to start discussions about several topics: how creative researchers have get when studying complex behaviors (such as racist responses), how tough it is to operationalize some variables (the researchers in this study have to work hard to carefully measure "racist responses" - it sounds like they used something similar to the implicit associations test), and the links between genetics and, well, everything!

To me this study is a good example of the interconnectedness of psychology - our "chapters" are in many ways artificial boundaries between sets of ideas. The AP Psych. free-response questions always try to break down these barriers (requiring students to use knowledge from more than one chapter to answer a single essay question) and this research makes that reality evident.

Posted by Rob McEntarffer

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it would be interesting to teach using a chapterless textbook.

Instead build units around fascinating people or cases: Clive Wearing, Daniel Tammet, Chris Sizemore, Phinneas Gage, Ian Waterman, Baby Albert, Kim Peek, Stephen Wiltshire, Ian Waterman, the Jim Twins, Virgil Adamson, Ashlyn Blocker, John Nash, Kitty Genovese, etc.