Blood pressure has long been dubbed the “silent killer” because it is often asymptomatic. Researchers have learned that hypertension (high blood pressure) can be manipulated by self-management of the organic expressions and controls for hypertension.
That’s a mouthful.
It simply means that the physical and physiological things we can voluntarily control, such as emotion, muscular tension, respiration and thought, can be converted into the instrumentality for relief from the hypertensive condition, and even other dangerous ailments.
For example, a survey called the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D)* has proven useful for many years as a way of determining a patient’s level of depression before, during, and after treatment. The Hamilton Depression Rating Score* is subject to reduction by, of all things, Botox injections. Yes, a single dose administered to 30 study participants resulted in “a 47% decrease in depressive symptoms, compared to just 9% in the placebo group.”
By “paralyzing the glabellar frown region—the area between the eyebrows—with Botox…” By making it physically impossible to frown, Botox “significantly improved symptoms in depressed individuals,” validating the 1890s “facial feedback hypothesis” of William James who believed there was a link between physical facial expressions and emotional states.
Testing for benefit in turning a paralyzed frown upside down would logically follow, and researchers came through. “Findings revealed that all smiling participants, regardless of whether they were aware of smiling, had lower heart rates during stress recovery… there are both physiological and psychological benefits from maintaining positive facial expressions during stress.”
Could we similarly turn implicit bias upside down merely through physical and mental exercises? The answer is most likely “yes.” Just as there is no doubt about the connection of physical activity to how we think and feel, there is no doubt about the direct linkage between physical and physiological response and unconscious bias, especially when it comes to race.
“Most abstract intentions are closely linked to some motor action…and it has been proposed that evolutionarily newer functions, such as cultural inventions, could make use of already existing neural structures evolved for more basic but similar functions.” (Dehaene S, Cohen L (2007) Cultural recycling of cortical maps. Neuron 56: 384–398.)
Just as the HAM-D does with depression, the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) relies on implicit (unquestioning) associations between cultural differences and our perceptions of “good” and “not good.” It tracks and interprets the physical manifestation of that hidden bias. If we force ourselves to physically and mentally make choices that counter our implicit assumptions, and physically make choices that install “psychological chopsticks” to the problem, we can change our bias state, and alter the way our subconscious operates on race, skin color, gender, weight and other preferences.
Can we heal ourselves of bias?
The results of the smile experiment were profound. “The participants who were instructed to smile recovered from the stressful activities with lower heart rates than participants who held neutral expressions, and those with Duchenne [genuine] smiles were the most relaxed of all, with the most positive affect. Those with forced smiles held only by the chopsticks also reported more positive feelings than those who didn’t smile at all.” It genuinely decreased stress.
What does that mean? It means that we are a two-way street. Our brain/mind controls all of what our body does, but our body can likewise influence the way our brain/mind operates.
If we can voluntarily lower our depression scores on the HAM-D, couldn’t we also improve our bias scores on the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) through “self-management of the organic expressions and controls for bias?” Instead of merely using it to reveal a bias, could we actually use the Harvard IAT to begin to unlearn a bias?
Find out how you can easily learn to pass the bias test with flying colors, completely free, and potentially neutralize your unconscious cultural biasdramatically in the process.
Harvard IAT – How to Beat It and Why Bother – Part I
* The HAM-D should be administered by a clinician experienced in working with psychiatric patients.
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