María Roca: “No one can escape prejudice”
In Argentina there is a huge political and social “crack”, which is fed every day in everyday conversations, in social networks and in the media. María Roca, an independent researcher of the Conicet and scientific coordinator of the INECO Foundation, is encouraged to explain through neurosciences how it can be that people living in the same country can perceive reality in such different ways.
“The brain is an admirable organ, which does a lot of things well but many times we understand it as a reader of a unique reality but the truth is that the brain interprets the information it sees. And that information is stained by different variables such as context, the personal history of each one or the spirit. These are called cognitive biases. To prejudices I prefer to call them rushed judgments just to avoid their negative connotation, “says Roca.
For the researcher, nobody can escape prejudices. “You don't realize how prejudiced it is,” she says convinced. The first step is to recognize that we all have prejudices and be clear about what is activated most when we are in a hurry, by multitasking or by mood. “How much we have a positive mood is when we pay less attention to detailed information. On the other hand, the most effective strategies to avoid prejudices are education, the need to search for information and exposure to statistical thoughts,” he explains.
Regarding discrimination against groups of people other than us, Roca describes what happens when the “endogroup” bias starts, which explains a tendency to positively evaluate the people in our group and to benefit them.
“Empathy can be defined as the human quality of putting oneself in the place of the other and understanding their emotions. In neurosciences it can be corroborated through the functional magnetic resonance that demonstrates that when we see other people suffer, the areas of pain are activated in us For example, this “empathic activity” does not occur with all people equally, so this empathic activation may be lacking when the victim comes from a distant place or time, or belongs to another social, racial or religious group different, “he concludes.
Human beings, in addition to meeting with people who think similar to them, also tend to ignore all information that is incompatible with their thinking and to value all that confirms it.
“It is clear that the mass media and now social networks have become a forum for discussion where issues of vital social importance are addressed. And a phenomenon called a resonance chamber is generated” which refers to the observation that Most users interact only with other people with ideas that think like them. These “sound boxes” or information bubbles can become ideal places to spread false news, that once they are propagated it is not so easy to erase or correct them in our mind, “he says.
Another way to try to break down prejudices is to “humanize” them, show who they are and how they are the people who embody those prejudices. “It seeks to bring stories of people who go against what the person thinks or show positive characteristics of the group that wants to break the prejudice. It is transformed into an element that shows different characteristics to those that were in your previous belief. It is to contribute more information when making a decision, “concludes Roca.