Can “Sleep Training” Help Reduce Racism, Sexism?
The level of a person's unconscious racism or sexism can be reduced by "training" their brain while they're sleeping. That's the conclusion of a research team at Northwestern University in Chicago.
The team first tested 40 people to determine their levels of prejudice. The participants then were engaged in a 'counter bias’ exercise, where faces of men and women were paired with words that went against social stereotypes. Female faces, for instance, were paired with words like "maths" or black faces were associated with positive words like "sunshine". Certain distinctive sounds were played during this exercise.
Then, those same sounds were repeated as they took a nap, with the purpose of subconsciously triggering memories from the counter bias exercise.
The researchers found that overall the test lowered a person’s bias scores, and that those levels stayed lower for as long as a week. However, the researchers noted that they didn't actually observe the study participants in the real world as they interacted with others, and say more research is needed to see if this approach can change a person's behavior.
They said that this technique also has potential in treating addiction or unhealthy eating.