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Scientific Empower:

By combining psychological theory, designers can positively impact the modern racism

3000+ words | 10 minutes read

Introduction:


This article demonstrates the importance of designers in keeping an impact on modern racism. The primary review question is: What is the insight from bias-driven discrimination? Can it be solved fully, or it is a necessary secondary product? Are there any social-psychological solutions for designer to decrease bias? What is going on the designers implementation for impact modern racism and society related problem? It includes: showing the designers' possibility of solving discrimination problems by combining science in their design projects. Finally, demonstrating current achievement from the graphic designer's impact in bias-driven discrimination shows the gaps in how a visual designer uses social psychological theory to impact modern racism.


The necessity of keep pushing anti-bias-driven discrimination: cultural racism becomes a new types of racial discrimination.


Some recent "racism" news is similar to previous cases. For example, the 911 attack made by a group of Muslims. Similarly,  the outbreak of the new champions league seems first broke out in China. As a result, people are more willing to connect the case with those group of people-- the United States after 911 have more violent discrimination against Muslims because of the Attribution error (cognitive drive); Similarly, during COVID-19, people of other races used Asians as scapegoats for violent racism (motivation). These are all discrimination caused by bias but formed for different reasons.

Although this discrimination behavior does not belong to racial discrimination, seemingly, these group-related discriminations will be classified into racial discrimination. However, the cases from George Perry Floyd's case show that racial discrimination still appears in American society. This case also shows the white priority, made by cultural inferiority, doesn't be solved in society.

As a designer, their goal is solving problems. Antonelli, a senior curator at the department of architecture and design and director of research and development at MoMA, calms that: "We generally think of design as a combination of skills that center around form-giving. But they are also technical, social, political, scientific, and it's sometimes the ability to speak in so many different languages to be able to bring people together (Compton, 2020)." However, when visual design faces the social issue, it seems to be powerless. Like what Danah Abdulla thinks, as a designer, educator, and researcher, she believes that "Design education requires a broad scope—and without exposure to other disciplines that share a culture with design, designers will continue to speak and design for themselves." Besides, visual designers are easier to make a thinking mistake when they want to design for social change because they can easily neglect the appropriation from their design (Tabitha,2013), which, from my perspective, is based on the level of difficulty. Speaking one thing is far easier in visual design, which is mainly for communication, making the illusion for designers to have fewer considerations. At this point, it is necessary to discuss this topic.

Modern racism, a new racial discrimination:

Cultural inferiority is a type of cultural racism defined by the psychologist Janet Helms. Modern racism or cultural racism refers to exaggerated racial differences. Those people who have modern racism will have negative feelings about minority immigrants, using race as a difference to refuse these minority people ( Pedersen & Walker, 1997; Pettigrew, 1998). Usually, those who have modern racism will have overreaction, or race sensitivity, manifests itself as an overreaction, overpraise, and over blame (Fiske,1989; Hart & Morry, 1997; Hass & Others, 1991). I believe that the George Perry Floyd case shows more about cultural sensitivity than cultural inferiority. Besides, this kind of racism will appear in the things that we feel familiar, similar, and comfortable ( Dovidio & Others, 1992; Esses & Others, 1993a).

However, a prejudiced attitude does not necessarily lead to hostile behavior. For example, racial discrimination and gender discrimination belong to institutional discrimination activities, even when there is no bias intended. For instance, David G.Myers, a psychologist in Hope College, cited in his book Social Psychology that recruitment from all-white companies does exclude potential non-white employees, even there is no discrimination intention from this company (David, 2013). What I'm saying here is that bias-based discrimination and institutional discrimination are two different things. Institutional discrimination requires a long period of cognitive change and may even remain unchanged to some extent, while discrimination caused by prejudice is relatively easy to reduce.

Although bias-driven discrimination has decreased in recent years in the United States and other countries (Devine, Plant, & Blair, 2001; Swim & Campbell, 2001), hate crimes still occur. In The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose said: "Prejudice is a kind of changeable opinion without obvious basis." Prejudice is a negative attitude that originates from a negative stereotype or arrogant emotion, while discrimination is a negative behavior often caused by prejudice (Dovidio & others, 1996).




Insight from bias:


What is bias?

David systematically analyzes the cognitive roots of discrimination in his book Social Psychology. Bias is an attitude, also as the negative results from stereotypes, will drive people to have relative reactions and discrimination (David, 2013). But bias certainly has its advantages, such as cushioning individual self-esteem, knowing whether other people's actions are directed against the individual, and setting up reinforcing social identity as an aid collective social action. He believes that stereotypes are byproducts of normal thought processes and that humans are born to have them (David, 2013).

They ways of human thinking related to the bias:

On the one hand, one reason for this is that the human brain, to store information more efficiently and quickly, relies on this shortness to remember information better and a higher rate of errors ( Daniel, 2012).

On the other hand, humans are hard-wired to categorize people spontaneously according to race, a natural act of thought that acts as a stepping stone for stereotypes and even prejudice (David, 2013). Humans are born with the ability to distinguish between similarities and differences. Instinctively, we all like to be around people who are like us. This can also lead to preferences leading to bias. Add to this that unique events make it easier for us to create stereotypes and even prejudices when we have little knowledge, and the mass media reflect and foster this phenomenon. David gives an example where if a murderer claims to be gay, people tend to mention homosexuality. Still, heterosexuals are not mentioned because of their sexual orientation. In this case, people tend to believe that homosexuals are more likely to kill violently. Together, these two encourage false correlations (David, 2013).

Aother big category is the attribution problem, where we focus on the person not in the situation, which leads us to overlook slavery as one of the causes of slavery, which is similar to the idea of gender differences. This kind of misattribution and thinking is called profit bias. Blaming the victim is because we have an accepted "truth," which is not the truth, but that this is a just world (David, 2013).

Motivation of Bias:

Discrimination is not only based on the ways of human thinking; motivations also force it. There are many motivations, scapegoats, superiority, social status, self-concern, and belonging. However, these motivations may help people avoid prejudice by recognizing it. One response is unavoidable -- an automated bias response, such as making some people feel uncomfortable when sitting next to gay people or ethnic minorities. By realizing and controlling our motivation, people can avoid bias and adjust their thinking and actions (David, 2013).










































Figure 1: Palau Pledge screen shooted by Anqi He, 2020.
















Figure 2: Rape Kit by Pagan Kennedy, 2020.

How to impact modern racism positively? By combining science like social-psychological theory.


In order to decrease modern racism and other bias driven discrimination, psychologists shows some solutions for use to use.

According to the psychological theory, Cialdini (2001) provides several reason that people will change their attitudes. Such as people are more likely to honor a commitment if they are committed to it orally, or writing, or in public; People will feel obligated to return a favor; People tend to follow others behavior; People tend to obey authority figures; People are more easily persuaded by people they like; People tend to catch the less available opportunity.

Besides, psychologists find that by changing behavior, people will be easy to change their attitude. Bem (1972) believes that when we use our behavior as a guide to help us understand our thinking and feeling, our self-perception occurs. Eliot Aronson and J.Merrill Carlsmith's (1963) experiment on this topic found that children were more likely to believe their thinking and feeling forced their behavior. However, there are hidden external reasons that drive them to act like that.  

Not only changing people’s attututes can be effective, but also modify our living environment can decrease some extent of discriminations. Psychologist David calm that as long as we know which aspects support the breeding of prejudice, we can improve on that point, such as products, social system, media, equality state, search and attention algorithm push, and reflection (David, 2013).

Not like conscious bias, unconscious bias should be solved by people themselves. Office of Diversity and Outreach ( UCAF) provides strategies to address unconscious bias for individuals. The first step is self-awareness and understanding the nature of bias, then have the opportunity to discuss with people who come from socially dissimilar groups. Finally, the most effective way is taking training (UCAF).

In my opinion, these solutions may help designers to create a design for decreasing conscious bias. Nowadays, some design pioneers start to combine design with psychological theory to impact the problems. One case from environmental protection shows the power of using the "commitment" strategy- the Palau Pledge.

"The pledge would be stamped into tourists' passports, which the visitors
were asked to sign before entering the country. The act of signature was an important element, as Higgins details, "When people sign something they're much more likely to act on something than if they just verbalised it." (Luc Benyon 2014, para. 7). The passport is a personal item, carried everywhere; by integrating the campaign directly into this document, it becomes intimate and powerful.  Since the launch in November 2017, all tourists coming to Palau have watched the film, received the stamp in their passport and signed the pledge. To date that number sits at 97,000 and rising." (Luc Benyon 2014, para. 15).

This case shows us that it is possible for designers solving problems by using psychological theory. Ann Marie Puente, lecturer at Parsons, in her AIGA lecture One Designer, One Work (2021), calms that the future of collaboration will combine with professions, design, and technology. She not only quote Yo-yo Ma's article, Culture Connects Us, calms that science is most effective when it retains its human dimension. Hence, we need both art and science to collaborate to find the truth and understanding what serves humanity's needs most effectively (Yo-yo, 2021). She also quotes the opinion from Philippe in Ethics beyond Duty and Virtue, saying that science, like medicine, law, engineering, like design disciplines, is equally engaged with the goal of changing the state of the world ( Philippe, 2017). In her lecture One Designer, One Work in AIGA, quote a statement from a journalist in New York Times, Pagan, saying that design, invention, architecture, and not just technical feats are political acts. This journalist currently writes an article about Rape Kit, a design campaign for sexual assault crime. This case supports her opinion.

Case study: Rape Kit made by Martha Goddard, by combining designing with law

Martha Goddard designed this convict rapists kit. Now, these Rape kit had been used nationally in America. Pagan Kennedy wrote an article to talk about the value of this kit and Martha, known as Marty, in 2020.

Unfortunately, even the Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights guarantees kits' retention for the full statute of limitations, but lots of rape kits in 400 cases had been destroyed by enforcement agencies and states since 2010 (Andrea, 2020). Besides, during the pandemic, domestic violence increases three times than the average number. Without enough kit support, women who suffered from sexual and domestic violence cannot protect their rights.

Marty creates Rape Kit because it can lead a campaign to treat sexual assault as a crime (Pagan,2020). By asking the right question: "Why were so many predators getting away with it? And what would it take to stop them?" Marty investigates kit and launches the campaign striving for the government to launch the sexual assault crime. The irony is that a man named Louis Vitullo seems to have taken credit for Ms. Goddard and put his name on the equipment. Moreover, It is hard to push the kit. When she introduced the kit to the police, the idea has just been killed off. Finally, even the kit was successful in exposing little credit given to the women who had pushed for reform, but Ms. Gehrie believes it was the only way to make the rape kit happen (Pagan,2020).

Some sexual assault cases were successfully passed sentence on a suspect because the victim used this kit to collect evidence (Pagan,2020). Also, the government starts to support the development of the SBI (Lauren, 2018). It is possible to say that this project is an innovation that combines scientific design for impacting social problems.

In summary, without the innovation of the Rape kit, women may not have suitable for fighting against sexual assault crime. Designer sacrifices their credit for pushing the campaign and kit work. This design should be treated as a good science design and solve the bias-driven discrimination to some extent. Besides, designers will be more powerful when combining scientific theory into their projects when trying to change the social issue. By combining social-psychological theory, I believe that visual designers can have a positive impact on modern racism.






















Fig3. Fifi shoes by Christian Louboutin. 2014


Fig4. Nunude bandage by Joanne Baban Morales.

How design pioneers solve modern racism and the social problem?


Several books talk about the design ethic, like Ruin by Design, written by Mike Monteiro. In his book, he calmed that as a designer, we have the responsibility to control all works we create, like a gate keeper. Besides, he also believes that we should think twice about what we do in the company that whether it disobey the ethical problem even the leader told you that you have to do the work. However, when designers design for social impact, they usually neglect appropriation.

Tabitha discusses the elements that designers should consider when they design the social impact. She takes handwritten signs of homeless people as a negative case.

The design project of homeless people's handwritten signs is for helping homeless people yelling for their needs by collaborating with homeless people to create their boards, making the boards attractive and easy to recognize. It looks nice when we see the boards themselves, but when we saw these boards hold by homeless people, we don't feel well. There is something wrong with the designers make this project for helping homeless people.

The creators in handwritten signs of homeless people claim that "the Good design can't in itself help the lives of the homeless, but it can help give the homeless back their voice and humanity. If it can do that, the design doesn't need to solve the homeless problem. We can do it ourselves."

However, Tabitha illustrates that the design only designs for buzzing without "thoroughly understanding what these concepts truly entail — or worse, without thinking about whether their contributions are doing more harm than good."(Tabitha, 2014) So she highlights five necessary considerations: Design collaboration, design serve the needs instead of just creating and looking good, even whether reinforce stereotypes. In her opinion, the writer can see the high sensitivity of making a social impact design.

Some of the product designs solve part of subtle bias in our daily life. They are small, but they are essential.

Fifi challenges the discrimination of the white skin color as nude color. Similarly, A new design case names Nünude is solving the same problem in bundle skin color. Nünude illustrates that 'nude' is a conceptual color
that should suit all skin tones. A great impact from Nünude is that a selection of major UK retailers have released their versions since Nünude launched.

These two cases focus on subtle discrimination in skin colors. By rename the nude color and provide necessary skin color, showing the social issue of the subtle discrimination. I come up with a similar idea, like the skin white in the color pencil and pen is a naming problem.

Not only can product design make an impact on bias-driven discrimination, but modifying the social media environment also can impact this discrimination. In 2019, Apple launch emoji lists to demonstrate the Love is Love advocacy for LGBTQ rights and the gender-neutral option. In the past, if a person who wants to show love and gender identity of some hobbies for their friend, he or she only has an emoji that has men and women. Now, Apple emoji provides several emojis to show gender diversity. Also, Apple launches new emojis to decrease the gender bias of taking care of children, sports, and skin colors.

However, it is hard to find that designers use psychological theory in their design projects to impact modern racism. Besides, there are no actionable toolkits like that. In my opinion, it is necessary to give actionable guidance to visual designers: summarizing social-psychological theory and implementations, giving it to designers to limit the harmful social design better and increase the effective social method for graphic designers.


Conclusion:


In summary, bias is a secondary product of the human stereotype, which can’t disappear, but people can change attitute by the outside intervention. Using the social-psychological theory of changing bias attitudes, designers can create something to make a positive change. A gap has been found when discussing some negative and positive anti-discrimination design projects for the current world. This gap is that how a visual designer positively impacts modern racism by using psychological theories because there are no guidelines and many examples from this. It is time for a visual designer to create and implement a toolkit.
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UCAF. (n.d.). Strategies to address unconscious bias. Retrieved April 11, 2021, from https://diversity.ucsf.edu/resources/strategies-address-unconscious-bias Yong, T. (2014, April 04). 5 things to keep in mind when designing for social impact. Retrieved April 07, 2021, from https://bit.ly/3ulDJzk


Herzig, A. (2020, June 26). The woman who pioneered the rape kit. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/opinion/letters/rape-kit-marty-goddard.html

Hart, A. J., & Morry, M. M. (1997). Trait inferences based on racial and behavioral cues. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 19, 33–48.

Hass, R. G., Katz, I., Rizzo, N., Bailey, J., & Eisenstadt, D. (1991). Crossracial appraisal as related to attitude ambivalence and cognitive complexity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17, 83–92.

Kennedy, P. (2020, June 17). There are many man-made objects. the rape kit is not one of them. Retrieved April 03, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/17/opinion/rape-kit-history.html

Kahneman, D. (2013). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Myers, D. G. (2010). Social psychology. New York. MA, Y. (2021, February 08). Yo-Yo MA: CULTURE connects us. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://impactalpha.com/yo-yo-ma-creativity-connects-us/

Myers, D. G. (2010). Bias, Dislike Others. In Social psychology (pp. 242-277). New York: McGraw-Hill. Swim, J. K., & Campbell, B. (2001). Sexism: Attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. In R. Brown & S. Gaertner (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of social psychology: Intergroup processes (pp. 218–237). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

UCAF. (n.d.). Strategies to address unconscious bias. Retrieved April 11, 2021, from https://diversity.ucsf.edu/resources/strategies-address-unconscious-bias

Yong, T. (2014, April 04). 5 things to keep in mind when designing for social impact. Retrieved April 07, 2021, from https://bit.ly/3ulDJzk


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