Two university professors at Florida State University and University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered a decrease in racial prejudice that occurred during the Nov. 4 election. They call this the Obama Effect.

A series of studies and experiments done with 300 non-black (white, Asian or Hispanic) students, designed to measure stereotyping and implicit prejudice, has found that there is an unprecedented drop in implicit racial bias across college campuses in Wisconsin and Florida. Researchers have found that 51 percent of the participants demonstrated automatic preferences for white people compared with the earlier 80 percent of white people that demonstrate an automatic preference for whites.

The researchers also asked the students what came to mind when they thought of African-Americans and close to a quarter of them listed Obama. In another experiment, participants were exposed to the word “black” on a computer screen for 55 milliseconds. The exposure was brief, intending to generate subconscious responses. Participants quickly selected words such as president, election or senator rather than neutral words.

Researchers have suggested that the success of Obama’s presidency may have implications for his future role in reducing racial stereotypes and prejudices.

“If his presidency is highly successful, he would activate positive traits, thoughts, and feelings for most people,” the researchers said. “However, the result may be less positive should his presidency prove to be less successful.”

– written by Shirley Mak


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