Sound could be used to positively wane away people from biases like sexism and racism, and perhaps could even encourage people to give up bad habits.
Scientists exploring memory functions have come across an interesting approach that may eventually help humans to get rid of their intrinsic biases. While people may not openly admit they are racist or sexist, their behavioral patterns often reveal their intrinsic thought process and once these surface, scientists could “influence” such people to think positively and break the stereotypes.
Scientists used the common presumption that men have always been better at mathematics, while women are good only at arts. While the volunteers for the study did not openly admit they associated the skills with gender, their actions and choices revealed it. Previous studies have indicated that university science faculty members believed males were more competent, deserving higher salaries than women. These biases and gender stereotypes might not be obvious, but their implications are quite apparent.
Scientists, while trying to understand how recent memories become ingrained in our mind during sleep, realized that a ‘consolidation’ process takes place, making an unstable memory stronger and more resistant to forgetting. However, there could be a change taking place to achieve this.
The researchers were interested in whether implicit gender or racial biases, views that people aren’t completely aware of, could be influenced. Using an Implicit Association Test (IAT), the researchers urged participants to categorize female faces and male faces within keywords like “science” and “art.”
Thereafter, the researchers asked participants to make associations that reversed the stereotypes. These new associations were “tagged” into their memory by playing a particular sound when participants correctly identified the counterexamples. Thereafter, participants were asked to take a nap, while electrodes recorded their brain activity.
During deep sleep, sound cues from the association test were repeatedly played. In this way, the test that reversed the stereotypes was “embedded” within the minds of the participants. When the participants retook the test, the bias wasn’t so profound. In effect, the researchers had discovered a way to single out a memory and coerced the brain to give it a desired special treatment during the consolidation phase.
Though the experiment isn’t even considered as a “trial,” the process may eventually allow psychologists to slowly wipe away the biases like racism and sexism that has begun to plague even the younger generation.
[Image Credit: Getty Images, P Huey/Science]