Friday, June 22, 2007

States of Mind

There was a programme on Wednesday night that I caught the end twenty minutes of called State of Minds. It was based on a recent survey by Orla Muldoon and Paul Connelly of Queen's University and commissioned by the BBC that was undertaken to measure prejudice in Northern Ireland. The show took the findings of the report and conducted its own style of testing and filmed the results.

The first test was The Bus Study whereby a group of two equally religiously split groups of students went on two very different bus tours, one focusing on the dark past and one on Belfast's bright future. It found that the students who went on the tour highlighting the troubles expressed more prejudice than those that went on a tour highlighting the new positive facets of Belfast.

The second test involved 'losing' 400 letters in Northern Ireland bearing stereotypically Protestant and Catholics names in residentially segregated areas to see if they would be delivered or thrown away. Overall, letters addressed to groups of religious denomination were less likely to be returned indicating people were more prejudiced towards institutions and organisations than individual people. Video evidence showed a letter being dropped within 10 feet of a postbox and a person picking it up and looking at the letter five or more times before depositing it and on one occasion, a man looked at the letter and walked back to his car, got in and drove off.

The third test that I did not see involved subconscious association of favourable ideas with one group and unfavourable ideas with the other group. The study found that overall Catholics tended to associate positive or favourable words with Irish/Catholic images and Protestants tended to associate positive or favourable words with Protestant/British images.

"[Overall,] the findings suggest that there are many components to prejudiced beliefs, such as beliefs that Catholics and Protestants are fundamentally different, felt emotions towards the other group and diversified religious difference into political, ethnic and national difference. There was a large degree of variability in the views expressed. However whilst there was a large degree of overlap in scores across all groups and the strength of the views expressed were related to demographic factors such as gender, age and social class. Women tended to express less prejudiced views than men on average and those from less affluent areas more prejudiced attitudes than those from more affluent areas."

However, What I thought was really disapointing following the results on the show was that the most prejudiced group after 60+ was the 18-24 age bracket. I would have assumed it would gradually decline in proportion to age but I was sadly mistaken. Perhaps this is due to the fact that no target range has lived within peace times and this is still majorly influencing the results. We will just have to wait another ten or twenty years before another study is undertaken and hope for the best.

Why not take the test yourself and post the result? Of course, the test itself assumes you are from one 'side' or the other and as an atheist, the results become skewed so it may say you're one thing when you're obviously not. For example, my result states:

You scored between 21 and 24. Your attitudes can therefore be described as “somewhat intolerant”. In comparison to the rest of Northern Ireland your attitudes are more negative than average. However you do not fall into that quarter of the population with the most negative attitudes.

Of course, as an atheist, I'm completely intolerant of any religion which makes me look intolerant on the test. I'd really like to see a more in-depth study that people are free to undertake to give a more enlightened view of Northern Ireland.


Anonymous Jenny said...

"You scored between 0 and 16. Your attitudes can therefore be described as “tolerant”. In comparison to the rest of Northern Ireland this places you among that quarter of the population with the most positive attitudes."

Of course I'm not from Northern Ireland anyway, so I suppose my results don't count :)

8:44 pm  
Anonymous Jenny said...

I took the Subconscious test as well:
"Below is a summary of the average response time for the two different configurations

Catholic with pleasant. Protestant with unpleasant: 0.984 seconds
Protestant with pleasant. Catholic with unpleasant: 0.908 seconds

By responding more quickly to associating Protestants with pleasant this has indicated you have a preference towards Protestants"

I really disagree with some of the associations that they used, though. How is a road sign Protestant or Catholic?

8:51 pm  
Blogger Jay Tea said...

Exactly. The whole thing is a farce masquerading as a legitimate piece of information gathering vis-à-vis constructive response questionnaire.

That said Jenny, I have noticed you responding 0.08 seconds quicker when asked a question by a protestant... :P

10:01 pm  
Blogger Skry said...

"You scored between 0 and 16. Your attitudes can therefore be described as 'tolerant'. In comparison to the rest of Northern Ireland this places you among that quarter of the population with the most positive attitudes."

Though I also feel the questions were aimed at Pods/Loyalists and RC's/Nationalists with no account being taken of atheists and other religions.

12:43 am  

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