Eastern Oregon University > Academics > Professor tackles the mechanics of group bias

Professor tackles the mechanics of group bias

Professor tackles the mechanics of group bias

Jan. 11, 2022 LA GRANDE, Ore. –  Colloquium, Eastern Oregon University’s academic presentation venue, returns for its first presentation of 2022 at 4 p.m. on Jan. 13 via Zoom

Assistant Professor of Psychology and first-time Colloquium presenter Heidi Blocker will share her findings from a recent study examining patterns in human behavior related to group bias, group preference and the possible influences for these behaviors. 

“I am presenting on attention to minimal groups. Minimal groups is this concept in social psychology that allows us to study the effect of belonging to a group or the effects of group differences,” Blocker said.

The study found its origins in Blocker’s previous dissertation examining attention biases. Some of the previous research was inconclusive and Blocker became interested in expanding the original project.

“We found insignificant results and I wanted to see if we would replicate those results and if we added more of the individual difference variables if we could find a way to explain what was happening with attention biases,” Blocker said. 

The new study involved participant students using a home-installed software called E prime that collected behavioral data, mostly through examining reaction times and participant preference to certain stimuli. The software allowed students to participate remotely over the internet without being restricted. 

“I can involve online students who normally wouldn’t have this type of research experience. Normally for online psychology studies they’d be restricted to doing surveys,” she said.

As part of the current study, Blocker is examining the fundamentals of group bias and human preference for and against other people when seperated into groups, especially when personal history is removed as part the research setting. 

“We can measure how you respond to these ingroup members and to this group you just learned about, that you have no history or knowledge about. How do you respond to your ingroup members and people who are these outgroup members from this sort of arbitrary, meaningless group?” Blocker said. 

Blocker also expressed interest in examining how humans perceive danger and how preconceptions of the world being dangerous can play into larger issues regarding bias.    

“People vary in personality, and one individual difference that I’m really interested in is this belief in a dangerous world. So it’s possible that there are certain people who just think that the world is more dangerous and might differ in how they’re interpreting these meaningless groups,” Blocker said. 

Ongoing analysis continues, but Blocker said preliminary findings show similarity to her dissertation research despite the difference in method. 

“Some of the attention findings that I’ve been able to conduct analysis on so far are actually in the same exact patterns and direction as my dissertation data that was conducted in a laboratory setting, in a different state, at a different university,” she said. 

Blocker hopes that the research can help both the general populous and scientific community understand what leads to personal and group bias. 

“I think it’s important to recognize that this influences how we process and perceive other people,” she said.
Blocker’s talk takes place from 4 to 5 p.m. over Zoom. The event is free and open to the public.