The 90% Full Glass Contests the Bias for Bias

Lee Jussim

in Social Perception and Social Reality

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780195366600
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933044 | DOI:
The 90% Full Glass Contests the Bias for Bias

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This chapter captures many of the themes of this book by first summarizing a “story” common throughout the social sciences. It is a story that emphasizes the role of stereotypes, social beliefs, and interpersonal expectancies in perpetuating and exacerbating demographic inequalities. It points out that, although the scientific evidence does not support it, this “story” remains highly popular among social scientists for two main reasons: Social psychology’s bias in favor of bias leads to a scientific literature filled with biases, not because laypeople’s judgments are so heavily dominated by biases, but because social psychologists seem to so strongly prefer to study bias; and the story has great political appeal as a rhetorical tool in the fight against oppression. This chapter then distinguishes between moral/religious/philosophical/political beliefs, which are rarely capable of being subjected to empirical test and disconfirmation, and scientific beliefs, which are subject to empirical test and disconfirmation. If one’s belief that stereotypes are inaccurate or that self-fulfilling prophecies are powerful and pervasive can be disconfirmed by overwhelming evidence of stereotype accuracy or evidence of weak, fragile, and fleeting self-fulfilling prophecies, then one’s beliefs are scientific. If those beliefs cannot be disconfirmed, they are not scientific, and one should not pretend that they are. The chapter ends with an analysis of the presidential election of 2008, showing that anti-Black racism seemed to play the minimal role in the election that would be predicted by the general perspective taken throughout this book. Bias was real, but small. It is about time that the social sciences started acknowledging that, with respect to social beliefs, social perception, and social reality, the big picture is that the social perception glass (of people judging others) is about 90% full.

Keywords: social perception; self-fulfilling prophecy; error; bias; accuracy; stereotypes; racism; election of 2008

Chapter.  6505 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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