University of Hawaii Study Shows How Sleep Deprivation Impacts Racial Prejudice

hawaiiSonia Ghumman, an assistant professor of management in the College of Business at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, recently completed a study which showed that a lack of sleep can result in a greater propensity to engage in racial prejudice and stereotyping behavior.

Dr. Ghumman showed resumes of prospective job applicants to 400 undergraduate test subjects who had been awake for varying periods of time. Some of the resumes had names that hinted of the race of the prospective job applicant. The results showed that the sleepier the test subject, the more likely they were to rate candidates with Black-sounding names unqualified for the position.

Dr. Ghumman stated, “We found that sleep functions as a self-regulatory resource that, when depleted, leaves people less able to control their thoughts, attitudes and behaviors in a non-prejudicial manner. By having a good night’s sleep and being well-rested, individuals are more likely to be able to act appropriately in situations.”

The research was published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. The article can be found here.

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  1. It is not sleep deprivation that impacts racial prejudice. It is sleep deprivation that prevented the actors from concealing racial prejudice! The subjects clearly have bigger problems than sleep deprivation if they judge job candidates based on an ethnic-sounding name.

  2. Oh come on now. Biases are a natural part of being human. Actually, the study isn’t so surprising, considering that avoiding acting out is aided overall all by a good night’s sleep. And using racial prejudices are a form of acting out in some ways. We know better but when we are exhausted, we care less about how correct our behaviors are. We have less focus and many of those programmed words and actions start to run closer to the surface. Prejudices are as much a product of cultural programming as they are of personal bias.

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