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Monday, April 26, 2010

Scientific Study: Looking at Chief Wahoo Will Make You Hate Asians

Posted By on Mon, Apr 26, 2010 at 3:52 PM

chief-wahoo-cartoon.jpg

Yes, even if you've never had any negative thoughts or feelings about Asians before in your life, looking at Chief Wahoo, the mere existence of Chief Wahoo, can change your opinions of a whole separate ethnicity.

That according to a new study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, which probably confirms that Clevelanders and Indians fans are inclined to stereotype and hate just about every group in the world.

When activists petition to remove Native American mascots from the logos of sports teams, the answer of traditionalists often boils down to: What’s the harm?

Newly published research provides an unexpected answer. It suggests exposure to one stereotype — however whimsical or benign in its intent — apparently activates others.

Native American mascots and logos have long been the subject of much debate. Should schools and teams get rid of them? Are they racist? Does it really matter? Should a bunch of middle-aged white people get to make those decisions? What does it really hurt?

What you should be asking is: How does Chief Wahoo effect my view of Polish people? Can one seemingly innocent logo representing Native Americans actively change my perception of the Irish?

Yes, yes it can apparently.

A research team led by psychologist Chu Kim-Prieto of The College of New Jersey examined the way our brains react to seeing or reading about a Native American sports team mascot. It conducted two experiments using Chief Illiniwek, a mythical figure who served as the official symbol of University of Illinois athletics from the 1920s until 2007.

In the first study, conducted on the University of Illinois’ Champaign-Urbana campus, 79 students selected at random filled out a 25-item “Scale of Anti-Asian American Stereotypes.” Participants rated on a one-to-five scale whether they agreed with such statements as “Asian Americans are motivated to obtain too much power in our society.”

For one-third of the survey takers, the questionnaire was pulled out of a folder decorated with stickers depicting Chief Illiniwek. For another third, the folder was festooned with the capital letter “I,” the alternate logo of U of I athletics. For the final third, the folder was blank.

The results: Those exposed to the image of the mascot, however peripherally, endorsed anti-Asian American stereotypes to a greater extent than those in the other two groups.

A second experiment showed similar results.

Their conclusion: “One’s reliance on stereotypes appears to be heightened with increased exposure to stereotypes, regardless of whom the stereotype is portraying.”

(Full gory scientific details and numbers and stuff can be found here.)

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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