Delayed Disengagement from Dissimilar Others: Evidence of Implicit Biases from Eyetracking?



Esser, Elizabeth G

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Previous work has demonstrated that individuals show a biased tendency to allocate their visual attention toward threat-relevant stimuli, including depictions of Black and Middle Eastern men. Such biases can be attributed to societal danger-stereotypes and implicit associations of these stigmatized social groups. The present study uses eyetracking to record saccade latencies in response to a spatial cueing task designed to measure the time it takes to disengage attention from a centrally presented face toward a peripheral target. We predicted that participants would demonstrate a tendency to delay the disengagement of their attention from faces of a race different from their own. More specifically, we expected to find the greatest delay in disengagement from the faces of Middle Eastern men and the shortest disengagement latencies in response to White men, with responses to Black men falling in-between the two. We also hypothesized that stronger implicit preference for a social group would be associated with shorter disengagement reaction times. The results indicate that there is a main effect of SOA, with shorter reaction time latencies in response to the longer 200ms SOA, compared to the 50ms SOA. There is also evidence that trait anxiety levels may affect attentional disengagement. However, the data provides no reliable evidence that there are differences in disengagement tendencies according to stimulus race. Possible reasons for the lack of support for our hypotheses are discussed.



Visual attention, Delayed disengagement, Eyetracking, Implicit biases, Race-based associations, Stereotypes