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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 0.509

CiteScore 2018: 0.23

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.232
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.478

Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2013, Issue 197


An exploration of possible unconscious ethnic biases in higher education: The role of implicit attitudes on selection for university posts

Geoffrey Beattie / Doron Cohen / Laura McGuire
Published Online: 2013-10-23 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2013-0087


Despite efforts to deal with the underrepresentation of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) staff in higher education, progress to date has been limited. We investigate the role of possible implicit attitudes towards ethnic diversity among staff and students at a leading British university. Ninety-six participants (48 White and 48 non-White) were presented with matched C.V.s of White and non- White applicants and were instructed to rate the suitability of candidates against two pre-defined job descriptions for positions at the same university (Lectureship versus Administrative role). Participants were also asked to shortlist two applicants for a subsequent interview, before completing a new multi-ethnic IAT. The new IAT assesses implicit attitudes towards BME groups as a whole, rather than focusing exclusively on a single ethnic minority. Evidence of implicit bias was observed in the IAT scores and in the White participants showing an own-race bias in terms of the proportion of Whites that they selected for the academic post, but not the administrative position. Implicit measures were a better predictor than explicit measures of actual shortlisting decisions. Policy recommendations are discussed.

Keywords: implicit-explicit attitudes; ethnic discrimination; implicit association test; shortlisting decisions; discrimination in higher education; labor market outcomes

About the article

Geoffrey Beattie

Geoffrey Beattie is Professor at Edge Hill University and a Masters Supervisor at the University of Cambridge 〈 〉. His research interests include the relationship between gesture and speech, implicit attitudes towards the environment and the role of implicit processes connected to ethnicity in everyday social life. His publications include “Possible unconscious bias in recruitment and the need to promote equality” (with P. Johnson, 2011); “Making an action film. Do films such as Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth really make any difference to how we think and feel about climate change?” (2011); and Our racist heart? An exploration of unconscious prejudice in everyday life (2012).

Doron Cohen

Doron Cohen is a research associate at the University of Manchester 〈 〉. His research interests include the relationship between speech and gesture and the impact of implicit attitudes on behavior. His publications include “Nonverbal indicators of deception: how iconic gestures reveal thoughts that cannot be suppressed” (with G. Beattie & H. Shovelton, 2010); and “Tracking the distribution of individual semantic features in gesture across spoken discourse: New perspectives in multi-modal interaction” (with G. Beattie & H. Shovelton, 2011).

Laura McGuire

Laura McGuire was a research assistant at the University of Manchester 〈 〉. Her research interests include the impact of implicit attitudes on unconscious eye movements, and emotional responses to messages in the context of sustainability. Her publications include “Do we actually look at the carbon footprint of a product in the initial few seconds? An experimental analysis of unconscious eye movements”; “An Inconvenient Truth? Can extracts of film really affect our psychological mood and our motivation to act against climate change?”; “Are we too optimistic to bother saving the planet? The relationship between optimism, eye gaze and negative images of climate change” and “See no evil? Only implicit attitudes predict unconscious eye movements towards images of climate change”.

Published Online: 2013-10-23

Published in Print: 2013-10-25

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2013, Issue 197, Pages 171–201, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2013-0087.

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