Teachers spend their time educating young people, imparting both intellectual knowledge and practical life skills, in an attempt to help children grow into adults. They often do this for low pay and little thanks. They are the best of us, or at least they’re supposed to be.
But teachers are regular people, too. And regular people have biases that sometimes inhibit their abilities to do their jobs.
A new study authored by research scientist Emile Bruneau found that teachers in Hungary are more likely to recommend Roma students for the lowest-track secondary school, as compared with non-Roma students. The study also found that this is due to blatant dehumanization—thinking another group is less evolved and/or civilized than your own—rather than affective prejudice, which is disliking people belonging to a particular group. In fact, the study shows that teachers with the lowest levels of prejudice were most likely to discriminate against Roma students when placing them in secondary school tracks.
“Teachers are a very interesting group to study because they tend to be very caring, prosocial people, and are the guardians of social mobility,” says Bruneau, director of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab. “So we thought that this might be a case where more subtle or implicit biases would be driving the behaviors, rather than blatant dehumanization. But we found the opposite.”
Read more at the Annenberg School for Communication.