Thursday, April 30, 2015

URSP Student Elizabeth Esser Investigates the Existence of Ingroup/Outgroup Racial Biases

As a psychology student, I have always been interested in cognition and the neural basis of thought. Each and every person thinks about the world differently and has a unique perspective. This concept reaches into every aspect of our daily lives without us even recognizing it. One hot topic in today’s society is racial bias; it has most recently popped up in the news in cases of racial profiling with important and far-reaching implications.

For my URSP research project, I am investigating the existence of ingroup/outgroup racial biases through the measurement of delayed disengagement from dissimilar others. I am using eyetracking technology to record the length of reaction times made in response to faces belonging to three different races: White, Black, and Middle Easter. Alongside the eyetracking task, I am using two Implicit Association Tests and questionnaire that I designed particularly for this study to ascertain participants’ pre-existing attitudes and associations as well as their ethnic origins and the extent of their exposure to diversity. I hope to use these measures to shed light on the basis of racial biases and prejudice, and to someday use the findings in an effort to limit its presence in the world.

I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity to conduct my own research investigation here at George Mason University, especially in an area that is so interesting and relevant to today’s society at large as well as to the diverse Mason community. While on a daily basis, research is not a particularly glamorous endeavor, with much of my work revolving around collecting eyetracking and survey data from participants and conducting statistical analyses, it is exciting and meaningful. Research expands our understanding of the world; it enriches our lives and produces solutions for problems that have plagued society since the beginning of time. OSCAR has given me the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself, bigger than any one person or organization. It is a privilege to be a part of this scholarly environment, and I can’t wait to add to the world’s knowledge through this program.