More Evidence of Cultural Bias in Testing

There is a large body of literature on cultural bias in standardized testing. It generally has two components:

1. In some questions, white people are made to look superior to minorities.

2. In some questions, there is a presumption of knowledge that is more likely to be held by whites than minorities, providing white students with a hidden advantage.

But there are, apparently, other, equally insidious forms of bias to be found, even in preschool prep books. A family friend recently wrote to say that she was running her young daughter through such a book, and came to a page with a picture of a female mouse who had on all her clothes except her shoes. The kid was supposed to identify what was missing from the picture.

“She forgot her necklace,” the child answered.

“Well, yes, but what else?” her mother asked.

“She forgot her bracelet,” the child answered.

“Okay, anything else?” the mother queried.

The child thought for a minute. “Her tiara?”

Plainly, this text must be immediately amended to eradicate its blatant and hurtful anti-princess bias.


frankenduf

or if this was asked in the outskirts of Missouri, the correct answer would be "nothing"?!

furiousball

was the lady mouse hot?

wesleyb41

frankenduf -

I was going to say the same thing in regard to AL, KY, MS, GA... but not TN. We wear flip-flops.

Indigo Starblaster

It's particularly silly when you're talking about a mouse. Mice normally don't wear anything, so why would any piece of clothing be seen to be "missing"?

egretman

These arguments have been going on for 45 years now. But the ruling class will always find ways to give their kids an edge.

When Hispanics finally take over America, the tests will be dominated by references to Cinco de Mayo and Mayan ruins. And why shouldn't they be? Get in line or get out...is the motto of every society.

bbeam

Yes, tests are biased. And yes, most societies (my guess is "all") have biased their entrance tests toward the ruling class. However, what I hope we want to do is to bias the tests toward the actual goals of the test, while randomizing the discriminatory biases for other areas (you can't get rid of them; every question has biases).

Oh, and, by the way -- I laughed out loud Stephen. Funny stuff.

msp

frankenduf -

If this was asked in the metro DC area, the correct answer would be "a Starbucks cup and a cell phone".

lermit

Really, I'm starting to ponder on what you would mean.

.lermit

jonathank

You should consider mentioning that eliminating bias is impossible since every test will need to present either a unified point of view or multiple ones. The former means those that don't share the unified view in some ways, even to a small percentage, experience cultural bias. The latter means that each switch of perspective imparts a separate cultural bias.

For example, any test which assumes middle class norms will be biased, as will any test that assumes English, as will any test that assumes poverty, etc.

This leads into some interesting territory about testing tailored to each group and the difficulties inherent in comparing scores if the tests are different.

Kent

The NY Times reviewer of Spider-man 3 suggested that the movie might harbor racist overtones:

"...The big selling point in “Spider-Man 3” is that Spider-Man or Peter or some combination of the two discovers his so-called dark side when an inky extraterrestrial glob (a symbiote in Marvel-speak) spreads its gooey tentacles over his body, turning his suit and soul black. Though there's something dubious about the idea that black still conveys evil in our culture, pop or otherwise (tell it to Batman and Barack Obama, for starters), the idea of messing with Spider-Man's squeaky-clean profile, smearing it with dirt, a touch of naughtiness, seems too good to resist..."

http://movies2.nytimes.com/2007/05/04/movies/04spid.html

Kent

In a Seinfeld episode, Jerry says to Elaine after she scores 85 on an IQ test:

"Well, maybe the test was gender bias, you know a lot of questions about hunting and testicles."

http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheCafe.html

Jason Malloy

There is a large body of literature on cultural bias in standardized testing. It generally has two components: 1. In some questions, white people are made to look superior to minorities. 2. In some questions, there is a presumption of knowledge that is more likely to be held by whites than minorities, providing white students with a hidden advantage."

Jesus H. Nonsense, Dubnar, this is not what the "large body of literature on cultural bias in standardized testing" shows at all! It shows exactly the opposite - that "standardized tests" are not biased against 'minorities' under the commonly accepted terms of the literature. The American Psychological Association has explicitly stated:

"... the relevant question is whether the tests have a "predictive bias" against Blacks... This is not the case... the tests do not seem to be biased against African Americans."

http://www.michna.com/intelligence.htm

As Jensen demonstrated in his exhaustive and still definitive treatment of this question, blacks do their best on the most culturally loaded questions. (same for other ethnic and economic groups)

http://www.amazon.com/Bias-Mental-Testing-Arthur-Jensen/dp/0029164303

Read more...

charlies_daughter

i think it is time that the truth is exposed . . . the book must go! see, the princesses are actually a cult and are brainwashing you to think people are biased against them . . .

ask almost any 4 year old girl, they usually will have the movie, tent, outfit, or some other item belonging to the cults' paraphernalia arsenal

bmc

White folks are made to look superior to minorities because it sells goods. Everyone wants to be something they are not. Oh and don't get me on the castle in the sky housing bubble rant.

mathking

"Jesus H. Nonsense, Dubnar, this is not what the “large body of literature on cultural bias in standardized testing” shows at all! It shows exactly the opposite - that “standardized tests” are not biased against ‘minorities' under the commonly accepted terms of the literature."

I always find it amusing the read about this debate, because every big empirical study is hailed as the "definitive work" on the subject. And its supporters deride other works as inferior or flawed.

Some quick examples from the link posted by Jason Malloy:
"I'm a sixteen year old who's harbored a fascination with human cognition, specifically IQ. Before reading this book I did not have an accurate model of human cognition; I was always theorizing in vain.Reading books by charlatans like Gardner or like Guilford or Sternberg (or whomever who doesn't accnowledge g) just left me hanging..." [Got to love a 16 year old who feels free to call Gardner a charlatan.]

"Still a very well respected work among psychologists despite what Mr. isreal (see below) wants you to believe. Don't take my word for it. Search the web for this and all works by A Jensen. Modern research has still yet to refute the well founded and scientifically supported claim that there are real differences in intelligence between races. Egalitarians are driven frantic by this but nothing is more important than truth. "

"As Prof Booker Peek of Oberlin University says :
' Arthur R. Jensen, in Bias in Mental Testing, marshals a massive array of data to bolster his contention that blacks are inherently inferior to whites in terms of mental potential. In over 700 carefully crafted pages, he challenges anyone to refute his position.
Allan Chase, in The Legacy of Malthus: Scientific Racism, argued no less persuasively in almost 700 pages that there is no scientific basis to categorize any race as being inferior or superior to another.' "

"Well if you are studying the history of psychology I guess that it is essential reading at a graduate level ( If might even be worth reading if you are a member of Aryan Nation ! ) Otherwise, don't waste you time, read someting that is more representative of modern scholarship. "

There is a large body of research out there that shows bias, and a large body that argues against it. What I have found the most amusing is the obsession we seem to have with IQ and other standardized tests. Their value in predicting "success" or "failure" in life is modest at best.

Read more...

egretman

What I have found the most amusing is the obsession we seem to have with IQ and other standardized tests. Their value in predicting “success” or “failure” in life is modest at best.

Because there is no one definition of "success in life".

BadMonkey

The female mouse was dressed fine for being in the kitchen. Unless, of course, the mouse is one of those 'modern' females who don't like to be barefoot while fixing meal.

rmckeon

As a foreigner who is in grad school in the US, I've taken standardized tests like the SAT and GMAT without struggling with any cultural biases. If this is because I am white, then that assumes that all white people share the same culture worldwide, regardless of whether they come from the US or some other country. Considering that even my white friends from Georgia and Maryland seem to come from two completely different cultures, I find this unlikely.

ultrarach

I've worked in the standardized testing industry, and at least in my experience, much effort is made to eliminate factors that could lead to cultural bias. Additionally, test questions are "tested" themselves, and statistical analysis is done to make sure that one group (be it male, female, whites, Hispanics, etc.) did not perform significantly better or worse than other groups. If a test item is shown to present a bias toward or against any group, the item is not used in any high-stakes exam.

Of course, bias is easier to determine on a state-by-state level, since states and regions have their own cultural trends and activities that may not be familiar to people in other regions. I would imagine that creating a bias-free SAT exam to be taken by students all over America would be much harder than creating a high school exam for students in Arkansas or New York, for instance.

kah

The little girl was probably thinking of Miss Bianca.

Miss Bianca is a mouse character created by author Margery Sharp in a series of excellent children's books.

The Miss Bianca books are actually great for kids because they are engaging and witty and use lots of "grownup" vocabulary words.

If anyone remembers the Disney movie The Rescuers, that was adapted from one of the Miss Bianca books.

Miss Bianca always wore a necklace and sometimes wore a bracelet. Here is a picture from a book cover illustration: http://g-ec2.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/ciu/86/18/c02d729fd7a033e1121ec010._AA240_.L.jpg