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lessdazed comments on Nonperson Predicates - Less Wrong

29 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 December 2008 01:47AM

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Comment author: lessdazed 17 November 2011 04:48:41AM 2 points [-]

Racism is bad because it makes us form groups and mistreat people that are different from us.

I suspect the causation goes the other way. I am looking for a study I recently read about that suggested this.

White subjects had difficulty recalling the specific content of what individual black actors in videos had said relative to how well they recalled what individual white actors had said. When videos of black actors were of them arguing for opposite sides of an issue, the subjects were able to match content to speakers equally well for black and white actors. The theory is that race was used as a proxy for group membership until something better came along. Once people were grouped by ideas, the black speakers were thought of as individuals.

The evolutionary story behind this is that people evolved with group politics being important, but almost never seeing someone of noticeably different race. It makes sense that we evolved mechanisms for dealing with groups in general and none for race in particular. It makes sense that in absence of anything better, we might group by appearance, and it makes sense that we would err to perceive irrelevant patterns/groups as the cost of never or rarely missing relevant patterns/groups.