Unlearn prejudice as you sleep
Racism and gender prejudice unfortunately continue to be prevalent in most societies. While it might seem impossible to change opinions that are often so deep rooted, scientists now believe sleep could be the answer. According to a new study, participants who underwent unique training during their sleep showed significant signs of reduced prejudice.
The study took place at the Northwestern University, with Xiaoqing Hu leading proceedings. The theory is that in a sleep state, deeply-held beliefs can be reached; including those we weren't aware we had.
“It is somewhat surprising that the sleep-based intervention could have an impact that was still apparent one week later,” Hu said. “The usual expectation is that a brief, one-time intervention is not strong enough to have a lasting influence. It might be better to use repeated sessions and more extensive training. But our results show how learning, even this type of learning, depends on sleep.”
The new study was building on previous work. Participants were played distinctive sounds during a learning session, which was followed up by a short period of sleep. If learning-related sounds were played during sleep, what they remembered changed.
“We call this Targeted Memory Reactivation, because the sounds played during sleep could produce relatively better memory for information cued during sleep compared to information not cued during sleep,” said Ken Paller, senior author of the study and professor of psychology at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “For example, we used this procedure to selectively improve spatial memory, such as learning the locations of a set of objects, and skill memory, like learning to play a melody on a keyboard.”
The researchers are hoping this new study could help tackle other biases and habits like smoking, phobias and self-centeredness.