Peoples' brains are naturally biased towards other people who are the same as them -- a behavioural trait scientists call 'in-group favouritism'. The opposite trait is also true: people are often naturally biased against people who are not the same as them, called 'out-group derogation'. Mamdooh Afdile -- a filmmaker studying for a PhD in neuroscience at Aalto University -- decided to use cinema to explore this.
Afdile used the film Priest to create a 20-minute stimulus film version that explored biases in two social groupings: heterosexual and homosexual men. 'If knowledge gained from our social environment can implicitly bias how we perceive each other, this should hold true to characters in movies as well,' Afdile explained. To see if watching the movie biased the viewers subconsciously, Afdile flashed the face of the protagonist repeatedly for a brief duration of 40 milliseconds before and after showing the movie.
Viewer - Person - Face - Time - Person
Even though the viewer wouldn't be able to notice being shown a person's face -- much less have time to recognise the person -- their subconscious brain responded to the flashed face based on whether or not they had become biased. By using functional MRI, the researchers were able to detect how people's biases could be changed.
In the beginning of the movie, the viewer gets the impression that the priest is heterosexual and falling in love with a woman. At the 10 minute mark, the viewer finds out the priest is...
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