Law in Contemporary Society

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ImplicitAssociations 2 - 13 Jan 2012 - Main.IanSullivan
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-- NathanStopper - 20 Feb 2010

ImplicitAssociations 1 - 20 Feb 2010 - Main.NathanStopper
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-- NathanStopper - 20 Feb 2010 Reading Jerome Frank made me think of the Implicit Associations Test that I took in a college social psychology class. I'm sure many of you are also familiar with the IAT, but for those who aren't, here's a quick summary from Wikipedia:

"The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is an experimental method within social psychology designed to measure the strength of automatic association between mental representations of objects (concepts) in memory. The IAT requires the rapid categorization of various stimulus objects, such that easier pairings (and faster responses) are interpreted as being more strongly associated in memory than more difficult pairings (slower responses).

The IAT is a tool in the development of theories of implicit social cognition, a body of results that suggest that many cognitive processes that affect behavior are unconscious in nature and are inaccessible to observation by the actor. These implicit processes affect perception, influence behavior, and color interpretation of past events." Read the rest of the Wikipedia entry here.

The IAT suggests that there's a scientific foundation for Frank's argument that the law is incapable of achieving fair and consistent results. I am sure that a vast majority, if not all, the students at Columbia aspire to be race/gender/religion/etc neutral, but when you take the IAT you see that most of us have strong cultural biases operating on a subconscious level. While I don't know if these biases are sufficiently strong that they would result in a different verdict for a white man and a black man accused of committing the same crime, the test definitely calls into question the ability of factfinders to be entirely impartial.

If you want to take one of the many IAT tests available online, click here.

Revision 2r2 - 13 Jan 2012 - 23:13:26 - IanSullivan
Revision 1r1 - 20 Feb 2010 - 19:40:12 - NathanStopper
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