First, something to distinguish. Prejudice and discrimination are different. Prejudice is a cognitive thought; discrimination is an act.
Now, having set that there, we can continue.
A great example of discrimination is when children learn schemas. Schemas allow children to develop a framework—the ability to decide what’s what. For example, when they learn what a dog is, they develop a schema: any furry thing they see is a dog. This is assimilation. However, after some period of trial and error, they accommodate, or change their schemas to better represent what it is supposed to be. So, another example is: if the child calls a cat a dog, a parent can point out that they are wrong. The child then picks up on this and edits the schema to then finally decipher and understand what a “dog” is overall.
This type of discrimination, or ability to set a word or definition to things in the universe is powerful. There are also many types of discrimination. This first one I mentioned, clearly, is learned. Children learn to develop schemas to better understand the world around them.
However, another psychology experiment to further explain another type of discrimination is the visual cliff. Essentially, a baby is put on a table. I’d look up an image of a visual cliff, but my best description is it visually mimicked a cliff. When nearing the edge, of the “cliff,” despite there just being a glass pane protecting the child from falling, they would not cross that portion, much less even be near it. Innately, the baby has a sense of what is known as depth perception. It understands that if it continues, it may fall and die. Some cool evolutionary psychology for you.
Most schemas can be unlearned, be it during childhood or anytime in life. The example I gave with the cat and dog: the child learns that the cat, quite simply, isn’t a dog. The schema changes. Innate discriminations are harder to change. These, such as an aversion to foods that taste bad, are more difficult to change. They are biologically built into us. Yet, it didn’t stop Pavlov. Conditioning always exists. Humans are creatures of knowledge and of expanding such knowledge. One of our purposes is we exist to learn. Not only academically, but about the world around us and how we interact with it. We can learn and adapt to any new situation. The innate behavior may persist, but the taught one may quickly disappear.
So: these two aforementioned examples serve as both innate and learned experiences when it comes to discrimination. Not the typical act of discrimination, of, say, being racist, but it serves as a way to transition for me.
So: racial discrimination is, ultimately, learned. We have no prior scientific evidence to conclude that this happened in other generations. Innate implies it is an evolutionarily genetic trait that was passed on from generation to generation to increase fitness. Most animals, of course, can discriminate between others to avoid predators. But we, as humans, do not have that same capability to deal with those types of issues. We are simply humans dealing with other humans.
We are CONSTANTLY exposed to varying views on how people see race. Most people are flat out racist, most unconsciously (more below) do things that they don’t even realize they’re doing.
So: explicit biases occur consciously, implicit biases occur subconsciously. Humans deal with implicit biases more often than not. It’s what happens with police officers. Their poor training leads to them being more likely to shoot black people who are unarmed. Their mind processes first before it can communicate with the person. And they grab the gun and shoot. The training can be improved to ameliorate those biases.
Those aforementioned two paragraphs prove that racial discrimination is learned. Our environment exposes us to these situations, and it propagates the ideas, especially during childhood.
These biases are often hard to change, but they can be changed. Especially with enough practice and effort.
As for me, though, my IAT was: “Your responses suggested a moderate automatic preference for White people over Black people.” For me, that was a bit surprising, as I do tend to find myself as a person who attempts to treat everyone equally. However, I do feel as though I would get a different result. I did take this 20 minutes ago while phasing in and out of sleep.
Overall, the IAT is a good test to use and should be used with police officers to determine who needs a better session for training. But it should only be taken at face value, as it is always just a test.
Anyway, again, explicit and implicit biases can be changed. You can unlearn what is rooted in you. However, a final important thing to note: you may actively believe you are trying to get rid of your explicit biases (so what you cognitively/presently do). Implicit biases, though, take much more effort, as they are an unconscious idea that may be rooted in you, such as, based on your parent’s ideologies.