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Changing Racial Bias by Transfer of Functions in Equivalence Classes

Abstract

Several studies used the stimulus equivalence paradigm to investigate attitudes toward socially relevant stimuli. In one of these studies, de Carvalho and de Rose (The Psychological Record 64: 527–536, 2014) used matching-to-sample (MTS) training to establish equivalence relations between a positive symbol and faces of individuals of African descent (toward which children showed negative bias prior to the research). Only one of four children showed the intended classes. The present study manipulated training parameters to increase the yield of equivalence classes comprising relations contrary to children’s previous racial bias. Thirteen children learned matching tasks that would potentially establish equivalence relations between Black faces and positive symbols, contrary to their preexperimental bias. All 13 children showed equivalence class formation, and nine of them maintained relations between Black faces and positive symbols in a different and more stringent test. Children’s evaluations of the faces with the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) showed a pronounced negative bias toward Black faces before training. After class formation, however, the difference between evaluations of Black and White faces was no longer statistically significant. These results showed that procedures based on equivalence and transfer of functions may contribute to educational programs designed to decrease racial biases, a significant challenge for our increasingly multicultural and multiracial societies.

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Notes

  1. The terms negro (Black) and branco (White) are generally used in Brazil to refer to races, both by the individuals themselves and by official agencies, with no opprobrium. Because the research was done in Brazil, we will use the closest translation of the terms used in the country throughout this paper.

  2. A simpler training could just reverse the presumed preexperimental relations, in order to establish classes comprised by A1/B1/C1 and A2/B2/C3 (i.e., Black faces equivalent to the positive symbol and White faces equivalent to the negative symbol). We considered (as did de Carvalho & de Rose, 2014) it ethically unacceptable to expose children to a training that could establish equivalence relations between racial traits and a negative sign. Therefore, we used the same strategy as de Carvalho and de Rose (i.e., providing training that could establish equivalence relations between Black faces and a positive sign, and between a negative sign and an abstract symbol).

  3. These images were provided by the International Affective Picture System (IAPS; Lang, Bradley & Cuthbert, 1999). The picture selection was based on a study (McManis, Bradley, Berg, Cuthbert & Lang, 2001) that verified which pictures children aged between 7 and 11 evaluated as positive, negative, and neutral according to SAM results. We used only one image that was not used in McManis et al. study (rotten fruits), which is, nevertheless, present in the IAPS.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Deisy de Souza, leader of INCT-ECCE, for her encouragement and support for this research.

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Correspondence to Julio C. de Rose.

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Funding

This study was funded by the Brazilian National Research Council (CNPq, Grant 573972/2008-7) and the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP, Grant 2008/57705-8).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This research was approved by the institutional Ethical Review Board, in accordance with Brazilian guidelines for ethical conduct in research with human participants.

Additional information

Táhcita Mizael and Carolina Silveira were supported by Graduate fellowships from the Brazilian Ministry of Education (CAPES). João de Almeida was supported by a post-doctoral fellowship from the São Paulo Research Foundation (Grant # 2014/01874-7). Julio de Rose was supported by a Research Productivity Grant from the National Research Council (CNPq). This manuscript is based on the master’s thesis presented by the first author to the Graduate Program in Psychology at Universidade Federal de São Carlos. This research was part of the scientific program of Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia sobre Comportamento, Cognição e Ensino (INCT-ECCE), supported by CNPq (Grant 573972/2008-7) and FAPESP (Grant 2008/57705-8).

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Mizael, T.M., de Almeida, J.H., Silveira, C.C. et al. Changing Racial Bias by Transfer of Functions in Equivalence Classes. Psychol Rec 66, 451–462 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40732-016-0185-0

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Keywords

  • Stimulus equivalence
  • Transfer of functions
  • Conflicting relations
  • Stimulus equivalence and attitudes
  • Prejudice