Late one night, a man searches for something in a parking lot. On his hands and knees, he crawls around a bright circle of light created by a streetlamp overhead.
A woman passes, stops, takes in the scene.
“What are you looking for? Can I help?”
“My car keys. Any chance you’ve seen them?”
“You dropped them right around here?”
“Oh, no. I dropped them way over there,” he says, gesturing vaguely to some faraway spot on the other side of the lot.
“Then why are you looking here?”
The man pauses to consider the question.
“Because this is where the light is.”
New research from the Yale Child Study Center suggests that many preschool teachers look for disruptive behavior in much the same way: in just one place, waiting for it to appear.
The problem with this strategy (besides it being inefficient), is that, because of implicit bias, teachers are spending too much time watching black boys and expecting the worst.
Lead researcher Walter Gilliam knew that to get an accurate measure of implicit bias among preschool teachers, he couldn’t be fully transparent with his subjects about what, exactly, he was trying to study.
Implicit biases are just that — subtle, often subconscious stereotypes that guide our expectations and interactions with people.
“We all have them,” Gilliam says. “Implicit biases are a natural process by which we take information, and we judge people on the basis of generalizations regarding that information. We all do it.”
Even the most well-meaning teacher can harbor deep-seated biases, whether she knows it or not. So Gilliam and his team devised a remarkable — and remarkably deceptive — experiment.
At a big, annual conference for pre-K teachers, Gilliam and his team recruited 135 educators to watch a few short videos. Here’s what they told them:
Each video included four children: a black boy and girl and a white …