Good Question….does the reality of unconscious processes undermine Christianity? (continued)

[ Final Draft: Oct 5, 2002              |             Part One: The experimental/research data   ]


The Biblical Data.


I discussed this a little in the intro to the piece on the Existence of the Soul, but here I need to develop the 'practical anthropology' a bit further, and relate it to automaticity, priming, mimicry, and especially negative automatic stereotyping.


The approach I want to take here is three- fold:








First, a thumbnail of a Judeo-Christian view of automaticity-looking processes, and their relationship to consciousness.



The Christian view of humanity is that people are created as individuals, and with dissoluble and defining relationships with everything else in their context--God, other people, physical reality (including their own bodies). They are a swirling mixture of individuality, physicality (i.e., their bodies exert influences upon their most-transcendental decisions, and vice-versa…e.g. placebo effects), and sociality (i.e., they are constantly aware and influenced by perceived others/Others in their experienced world).


As individuals they have individual agency, and individual character, much of which is 'borrowed' from their context, and much of which is 'shared' with others in that same context. They are like their parents, but different. They are like their friends, but different. They are like the people in their culture, but sometimes different. And they are even different within themselves! They have competing values, competing desires, competing intra-influences. And they change, reflecting sometimes conformity tendencies and sometimes reflecting contrarian tendencies.


But they are essentially social from the first design…They are internally structured after a conscious and intra-social (i.e., Trinitarian) God. They are pre-built with notions of other minds, intentionality, trust, reciprocity, and communication. They wake up in a social context, after years of abject dependency on the 'whole village'. They regulate behavior with an eye on social and communal values (expressed in 'expectations'). They learn first by mimicry, then by instruction/education, then by reflection upon social/psychological experience, and then by personal selection of a future-basis-for-learning paradigm of life/values (deliberately retaining some prior learning, and deliberately rejecting other prior learning).


They are malleable--at the core--and seem built for learning. Every new item of education or experience 'changes the mix' of virtually all past experience and education (stored in memory). This is a force for change. But they are also built for constancy--their goals and strategies work for 'coherence' and 'consistency' in their attitudes and worldview and beliefs. This is a force which resists change.


The biblical data seems to portray a 'spiral model' of character development, which could be expressed in two different ways:


1.        Subjectivity creates Objectivity, which modifies existing Objectivity, which conditions subsequent Subjectivity.

2.        Thinking becomes doing, doing becomes habits, habits become character, and character becomes thinking.


Both of these models mean the same thing: your current mental choices will eventually affect your future mental choices (if left 'undisturbed'). Your choices (inside, subjectivity) always flow to the outside-mind world (objectivity), and become the operating base for your future mental activity.


This spiral of 'ingressive development', so to speak, was meant for good. In a perfect world, each good choice would result in a 'better' world, and in sequence, higher leverage and easier future choices of the good. Practice makes perfect. More of good makes better. Everybody helping everybody else get better.


This "ingressive spiral", as it were, is expressed in biblical images as 'organic'. For example, tree will always be a tree, but it can be shaped in many different ways. Each new branch can be "tended" to grow in a certain direction, and the longer it grows in this direction, the more difficult it is to change that direction. The branch gets thicker and less malleable, and only minor adjustments can be made later.


In a non-perfect world, the spiral could go awry…I could respond to life with increasing callousness, increasing complacency, increasing hostility, increasing arrogance, and increasing detachment--and after a while, it would simply be 'who I was'--and I would quit apologizing for that lifestyle, and eventually, begin to value it and divinize it... This process is sometimes known as 'hardening of the heart' in scripture, and God is portrayed as intervening in human lives to 'slow' and sometimes 'interrupt' this process, before 'full automaticity' is "granted" to the aberrant agent (under principles of self-definition and self-development, in the context of moral government of the universal community--e.g. Romans 1 & 2).


But also built into the system are calls to break out of the cycle. There are those who call us to awareness, to alertness, to caution. We have friends (and institutions) who warn us of our trajectory, and encourage us to efforts of reform and renewal. We have conscience and the 'social voices inside' which almost never seem to die. They may give up on a given issue (after we repeatedly ignore them), but they will awake refreshed and enthusiastic upon the morn! There are development epochs even, that seem to biologically trigger self-review (e.g., first and second adolescence, mid-life, menopause) and cultural rituals of passage that do the same (e.g., graduations, birthdays at legal age markers, New Years).  There is the gift of discontent, which when coupled with the power of the binary operator 'negation', allows anyone to visualize an alternative future, a different life, a better situation, changes that need to be made. This ability to create (in our minds) environments which do not actually exist (yet), allows the perception-behavior link to create hopes, dreams, longings, desires, needs, and eventually, perhaps even plans and subsequent actions, to change our trajectory in life, and to create an incrementally-different 'us'.


The voices and influences that beckon us to conformity are filled with contradiction. The culture has many different, competing, and contradictory sub-cultures. Social groups have sub-groups which have counterstereotypic traits. The inherent (but generally non-destructive) inconsistency in every human model, teacher, parent, hero, or 'target of mimicry' insures that we never go too long without having at least a couple of choices in our option-bag…Brainwashing--to reduce the internal 'competing factions' into one monolithic one--is an exceptionally difficult, expensive, and error-prone process. We are literally fountains of freedom, cauldrons of creativity, and nozzles of novelty--even as 'stable' as we think ourselves to be!


The bible calls humans to awareness and alertness to this cycle, encouraging us to self-examination, to reflection on values, and to commitment to the good. It recognizes that good action becomes good character, and that good actions can flow from good character (as in automaticity). Biblical injunctions to 'train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it' and 'Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life' and 'train yourself in godliness' are all indicative of the basics of 'automaticity'.


In addition, the New Testament calls followers of Jesus to radical re-evaluation of status and values, with commensurate changes in social behavior, affect, and goals. The New Creation in Christ image is replete with implications for radical transformation of existing social relations and self-perspective, and the call to walk in the servant footsteps of Jesus includes a call to 'put off' the 'old patterns' (some/many of which would likely be pathologically-developed, stereotypical, automatic processes).


Thus, at an overview level, automaticity and mimicry (and "reverse mimicry"--in which we are called to become models to others of love, gentleness, and service)  are essential components in the biblical view of persons.





Second, a map of some of the social/cognitive psychology terms and concepts to biblical themes, statements, or understandings.



In this section, I merely want to illustrate possible mappings between some of the social psychology concepts and biblical themes. These are not particularly striking or amazing, by any means, simply because both disciplines are looking at the 'same data'--real life. But it is instructive to notice how 'real-world' and 'appropriate' many of the biblical injunctions and perspectives are.



Research Concept

Representative Biblical data



creation of

train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Prov 22.6)


train yourself in godliness (1 Tim 4.7)


But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Heb 5.14)




 pervasiveness of

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Prov 4.23)


The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Lk 6.45f)


This is also implicit in all the calls to vigilance, relative to our behavior in the NT.

Difficulty of control

Can Ethiopians change their skin or leopards their spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. (Jer 13.23)


Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? .. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.  When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. (Romans 6)


Notice that the 'ever-increasing wickedness' contains the ingressive spiral idea.


Make no friends with those given to anger, and do not associate with hotheads, or you may learn their ways and entangle yourself in a snare. (Prov 22.24f)


Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise (Prov 13.20)


And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us (Eph 4.32ff)


You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. (Lev 20.23)


 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.  18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet 3.17f)


Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (I Cor 15.33)

The countless references to 'imitate God' and 'imitate Christ' are the foundational call for Christian behavior.


The influence of bad examples can only be countered by awareness and cognitive rejection (perhaps constructing an inhibitory auto-process, similar to what can be done with egalitarian goals).


"Here (1 Cor 15.33) Paul cites a popular proverb, first attributed to the comic playwright Menander but in common circulation by Paul’s day. It was the common advice of Greco-Roman moralists and Jewish wisdom teachers to avoid morally inferior company (in the Old Testament, Ps 119:63; Prov 13:20; 14:7; 28:7)

Awareness, monitoring

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching (1 Tim 4.16)


Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away (Lk 8.18)


But let a man examine himself…but if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. (1 Cor 11)


Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves (2 Cor 13.5)


If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  4 Each one should test his own actions. (Gal 6.3f)


I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die (Rev 3)


We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober (1 Thes 5.6)


Come to your senses! (1 Cor 15.34)


Consider also all the many passages on critical thinking at everythg.html, plus all the NT injunctions about detecting and rejecting false teachers.


recreation of

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12.2)


Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,  and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him —a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Col 3.9ff)


Since this renewing involves the 'bearing fruit' motif, this process creates 'frequent and consistent' experiences of charity, forgiveness, acceptance, etc, which would become the 'new self' which practices righteousness.


Again, there should not be anything particularly surprising in this, since much of this is common to general moral education. The heightened calls to vigilance and the heightened dependence on mimicry-requiring-action (living like Jesus) was perhaps a bit different from moral instruction of the day. [The content of the systems, however--especially as relates to status and social categories--was strikingly different. But that's another story…]





Third, I want to map specific counter-stereotypic strategies from the research data to specific biblical passages and  motifs, to see to what extent the biblical approach is 'in synch with' known socially-beneficial interventions/mediations.


This is the most significant part of the discussion, since early Christianity was surprisingly 'victorious' over class and status distinctions (documented several places in the Tank). The NT ethical and pastoral approaches--when compared to the social psychology research data on stereotype activation, for example--will give us some insights as to how that happened (and perhaps suggest how we might recover that unity today).


The approach will be to cycle through the research data again, excerpting statements on what worked in reducing implicit prejudice and in countering racial/gender/outgroup stereotypes (and related problems). For each statement, we then explain how a NT practice might reflect the same approach (at least in theory), and in some cases, note what that 'might look like' today. [Needless to say, I can only make the briefest and most tentative suggestions as to 'what this might look like', since implementation issues can be quite complex, and I personally am 'challenged' in the pastoral skills arena (responsibility-avoiding smile here).] There will be a 'precision challenge' in this matching process, of course, since the research data will discuss a very precise intervention, and the biblical data will speak in general, common-language terms. Accordingly, there is a distinct possibility,  in each of these interventions below, that the biblical data 'worked' because of other factors than the ones I assume were involved. Many of these social influences are interconnected in everyday experience, so it is not always clear which influence might have been the most contributory to an intervention's success.


I need to make four additional notes about this data and my comments:


  1. First, Most of the research below deals will lowering implicit (automatic) prejudice, but many of these will not work for explicit prejudice. Implicit prejudice deals with automatic processes and stereotyping, and is activated unconsciously in the "presence" of the outgroup member. It operates unconsciously and easily can affect our judgments, evaluations, and behavior. Many of the approaches below clearly reduce, neutralize, or inhibit these types of processes. Explicit prejudice, on the other hand, is more of a cognitive function, and relates to our self-reports and expressions of our beliefs. For example, it was common in these experiments for the researcher to note that implicit prejudice was reduced (as measured by subconscious measurement methods--IAT, Stoop effects, etc.), without a corresponding reduction in explicit prejudice (as evidenced by self-reports). Most researchers concluded that different change mechanisms would be required to work on the different types.


  1. Secondly, although the examples will largely deal with well-delineated outgroups (e.g. racial, gender, age, religion), these principles will apply to all constructed outgroups. The preference for our ingroup, over all other outgroups, is apparently hardwired in. The article by Ashburn-Nardo et al. (2001) indicates this, and documents this even for assigned in-groups and "unknown" outgroups. It seems we are hardwired to allocate our life-resources and attentions to those 'within our reach' first. In our modern setting, this means a church/parachurch  could be literally filled with 'ad hoc outgroups', without having any racial, gender, or age 'problems'. The gospel levels all before a good-hearted God, and thus a life consistent with this love-charged transforming message will endeavor to reduce divisiveness and the elitism often caused by inter-group bias. Accordingly, the data below will typically generalize to other ingroup/outgroups in the real world.

  2. Third, in my 'pontifications' about "in modern settings" below, my intent is NOT to apply the social psychology research data to the process of sanctification! Nor am I suggesting turning the church/parachurch into social experiments or 'manipulation chambers' (chuckle). [It wouldn't work anyway--there's an old sarcasm in lab research that goes like this: "Under the most carefully controlled laboratory conditions, experimental animals behave….as they damn well please." (smile)] There are no 'magic interventions' to produce Christian growth--no matter how carefully/expertly these automatic processes were 'engineered' into us by our wise God. Transcendent growth is an outgrowth of a journey, a slow dance, a shared life with the Lord. My intent here is simply to ask how the biblical data (reflective of these timeless psychological realities) might be applied in today's context, in such a way as to accomplish some of the same community benefits it did in the NT period. Believers are constructed (and re-constructed) to respond to encouragement, examples of virtue and goodness, calls to awareness, positive interpersonal interactions, calls to re-boot our views of our 'fellow forgiven family members', and all the dynamics used in the NT. And, again, these suggestions are tentative and not based on pastoral experience, so each needs to be carefully evaluated in wisdom.

  3. Finally, it should be noted that these strategies were not the only ways faithful other-lovers have addressed problems of social divisiveness and intergroup inequities. The data we look at below comes strictly from psychology data (i.e., related to internal 'stuff') and so it might appear that 'solutions' to social problems are only focused on individual tactics. But this is only part of the story, for if I had started with biblical data from the Social Prophets in the Old Testament, for example, our list would have included only externally-focused, prophetic social and institutional critique. [Of course, these prophets called upon the abusive leadership to be personally/psychologically renewed, but it was often expressed in terms of conformity to the institutional-charter Law of God.] So, this list below certainly does not exhaust all the ways God has tried to get us to 'love our neighbor as ourselves'…




Okay, here we go…



The New Testament approach to this problem is to 'assume the best stereotype' going into the experience. One of the most fundamental  tenets in the new believer's faith was that Christians were re-made in the image of Christ, and were sources of love and faithfulness for them. In encountering a Christian 'outgroup member', the theologically-consistent believer would 'believe the best' (I Cor 13) about the target, and expect goodness, kindness, Christlikeness, etc. from the member of the social outgroup. Oddly enough, the statement above suggests that this procedure would actually cause a 'net gain' in the interaction, since if I thought the outgroup member was going to act graciously, then I would be induced (under this principle) to produce that exact type of (excellent) behavior! Thus, this mimicry-projection would make for better relations between the various subgroups.


In a modern setting, this could be as simple as describing righteous/gracious acts by outgroup members, before a congregation, class, reading or video audience. A closer possible example might be to have the outgroup member speak before a group about some past such action, describing his/her motivations, affects, thoughts, etc., and then have a discussion, Q&A, or more social-oriented post-meeting gathering. Encounters between the ingroup/outgroup members in this afterward meeting would then be subject to the principle above.






“In support of this logic, Moskowitz and Sussman (1999) have found that activated goals lead to perceptual sensitization, so that goal-relevant words capture and direct attention at speeds where conscious control over attention cannot operate. Goals were controlling implicit cognitive responses. An implication of this finding, as well as the findings of the current research, for stereotyping is that the intent to be nonstereotypic need not be described as the 'hard choice' that one consciously and effortfully uses to overcome the impact exerted on judgments by the 'easy choice' of stereotype activation and use (Fiske, 1989).” (Moskowitz et al./1999)



Those familiar with the NT will recognize in this statement the exhortations of Paul such as "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Phil 4.8) and "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." (Col 3.1). And, in the 'reduction of activation', we are to avoid thinking about less-than-laudable goals: "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. " (Rom 13.14) As we noted in our overview, 'renewal of the mind' was a central method of progressive improvement in goodness. Meditation on the character of the gentle, meek, servant-hearted, loving Jesus and study and meditation on the written Word of God, as the revelation of HIS character and good-heart, were central fountains of new life, transformed character, and a changed world. According to this principle, the more the early believers thought about love, goodness, faithfulness, benevolence, acceptance, the more their unconscious perceptual 'apparatus' would selectively attend to these elements in perceived space. Accordingly, they would notice more good, more love, more kindness, and could reciprocate it or honor it by public notice. What a powerful tactic! The good-heart looks for the good, and finds more of it than those who don’t---even in the same environmental setting.


In a modern setting, this is clearly implies the teaching of the content of the scripture (e.g., the new status of believers, the imperatives of love, the call to pervasive integrity and ethical consistency), and the continual reminder of the central "mimic-exemplars" of the Cross-bearing Jesus, the Son-giving Father, and the Warmth-producing Spirit. The emphasis should be on the positives (for this principle--negatives will fall in a different principle, below).






"After being primed and asked to form an impression of a target person, some of their subjects were then informed that the experimenter was concerned with their personal responses and they were asked to put their names on their responses. The rest of the subjects in the group were told to keep their responses anonymous. They predicted that subjects in the group who were not responsible for their judgments would engage in "social loafing" and in their effortless evaluation of the target person be guided by the primes. However, subjects who were responsible faced a conflict between the goals of preserving resources and being accurate. Resolving this conflict led them to be more effortful and careful in their judgments; they could not afford to loaf and simply rely on the most accessible explanation provided by the primes." (Gollwitzer and Moskowitz/1996, p.383)


It should go without saying that this 'accountability manipulation' (chuckle) is also a beautiful part of NT teaching. "We shall all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ," Paul says, and this accountability is before One who did for us exactly what He asks us to do for one another--"Love one another as I have loved you", "forgive one another, as Christ forgave you", "freely you received, freely give"…Additionally, accountability considers Jesus' view of those we treat/mistreat: "Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died" (Rom 14.15)


 In a modern setting, this accountability needs to be taught (and perhaps visualized) to the believers. This might first require some theological explication, since some believers might confuse this believers-only judgment with the more universal judgment of all individuals. Once any theological fog is dissipated, the believers can be encouraged to 'prepare an account' of how they did in the various ethical directives enjoined upon us by our Lord. [Romans 14.13 makes this look like an 'active', Powerpoint-type, "management review" presentation--instead of passive Q&A--so this might be a great way to 'structure' such a self-examination. I personally use this PPT-approach to examine how I am doing.] Even aspects of the universal judgment in Matt 25 can be used to indicate some of God's priorities as topics for the presentation (e.g., "I was hungry, and you gave me food…"), as well as the judgment letters in Rev 2-3.





This effect would be generated by the sample biblical injunctions to 'outdo one another in praising one another' (Rom 12.10) and 'honor all men' (1 Pet 2.17). Paul consistently did this, for example, in his letters--he is CONSTANTLY praising his co-workers and fellow-believers and model Christians. He is always thanking God for them. Consistently 'looking for the best' in a 'suspected stereotyper' (smile), and then verbally, legitimately, sincerely, and publicly recognizing this good quality or this good action, will not reduce your own prejudice, but--according to this principle--it may reduce the prejudice of others toward your own 'outgroup'.  [Notice, incidentally, that God intends to do this as well at the judgment: "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. " (I Cor 4.5, see also Rom 2.29)


In the modern setting, of course, you can't do this in such an selective, 'engineering' fashion, since the biblical injunctions are for EVERYBODY to praise and honor everybody else. So, initiatives in this space will focus on public forums (verbal/communal, written/published, etc) in which identified members praise and/or express appreciation for some other identified member's qualities or actions.




This is essentially the feedback mechanism required to alert us that we--as bearers of light and life in the world--have acted destructively and treacherously. In the NT, one form of this is the 'berate-ment' (smile) given by the NT authors to those who in those days acted as we might have acted more recently. The NT 'calls on the carpet' non-egalitarian behavior in a number of places, and this rebuke (back then) would have served in this 'punishment' capacity. Sample passages would include the rich-over-poor partiality in James 2, and the elite-vs-poor disconnect in the Communion Supper in 1 Cor 11. At an individual level, the true believer should experience more grief than guilt, since his/her empathetic relationship with the offended brother/sister should produce a personal emotional experience ("weep with those who weep…"). Additionally, the NT teaches that the Spirit inside the believer can bring such mistakes to our hearts for confession, apology, correction, restitution (if applicable) and fresh/heightened commitment to renewal and improvement.


In a modern setting, this might be exercised in a self-review class, in which past encounters with outgroup members were reflected on (privately) and assessed for conformity with the law of love and the principles of the Body. And a second tactic would be to assist the development of empathy, by circulation of (anonymous) stories of how an outgroup person felt during/after being treated in such a way…More tentatively, there may be governance situations in which someone who refuses to address their problem in this area might be restricted from working on specific projects that require lower levels of stereotyping. One must be careful here, to not exclude such a one from growth-facilitating service in other areas of responsibility and one might keep the explanation for the restriction very private--between only the underdeveloped believer and the committee chairperson, for example. This latter case would require much more careful and gentle governance discussion than I can do here (or at all, probably)--but the principle should be clear.




This, of course, is the bane of this problem. What motivation do people have to see others 'better'? Bargh's discouraged voice in "The Cognitive Monster: The Case against the controllability of automatic stereotype effects" (1999) points out that this is an additional problem over and above the major one of lack of awareness. It takes effort and will to correct these, and it takes a goal to expend the will/effort, and it takes motivation to formulate/adopt a goal. In the ancient world--as in the modern world--these issues just didn't 'touch' the average stereotyper. Like today, the 'guilty' just didn't see the problem…But in the NT, the social world was very, very different. There were several major motivations to reduce stereotyping: everyone was needed for the work, all were leveled in the forgiven church, truth and accuracy of judgment were commanded by the Lord, love was the central ethic, and the only people who weren't chasing you to kill you were these outgroupers! These people were precious to your God, who was precious to you…and these people "visited you when you were in prison"…


In modern settings, this teaching must be recovered (or at least brought to a higher level of vividness). Some of this would be through careful exegesis--especially with explanation of how status/divisions worked in the ancient world and how the daily life of the church reflected true egalitarianism--but some would come by letting all the people share 'their stories' of their experiences of the same grace that touched your/our lives. The common experience of forgiveness followed by celebratory gratitude and freedom, would forge an experienced commonality between us. And again, those that love my Jesus, I have found that I have an immediate love for them…






“Recent findings suggest that forming implementation intentions indeed inhibits the automatic activation of stereotypical beliefs and prejudicial feelings (Gollwitzer, Schaal, Moskowitz, Hammelbeck, & Wasel, 1999). When participants had furnished the goal intention to judge the elderly in a nonstereotypical manner with respective implementation intentions ('Whenever I see an old person, tell myself “Don't stereotype!”'), the typical automatic activations of stereotypical beliefs (assessed through pronunciation speed in a semantic-priming paradigm) was no longer observed. Implementation intentions were also found to effectively suppress the automatic activation of the gender stereotype. When experimental participants who had formed the goal intention to judge an introduced woman in a nonstereotypical way were asked to form an additional implementation intention ('Whenever I see this person, I will ignore their gender!'), no automatic activation of stereotypical beliefs about this woman (assessed through the latency of color-naming responses in a primed Stroop task) was observed. Finally, implementation intentions were observed to suppress the automatic activation of prejudicial feelings in a study on homeless people. When participants' goal intentions to judge the homeless in a nonprejudical manner were furnished with respective implementation intentions ('Whenever I see a homeless person, I ignore that he is homeless'), the automatic negative evaluation of the homeless (assessed in an affect priming paradigm) vanished...These data imply that forming implementation intentions can be used as an effective self-regulatory tool whenever goal pursuit is threatened by the intrusion of unwanted habitual thoughts and feelings.” (Gollwitzer/1999)


The topic of implementation intentions ("when X occurs, I will do Y") is a fascinating one, and offers great hope in this area of stereotype inhibition. Goals that include implementation plans are achieved three times more often that goals without specific plans. This being the case, I find it interesting to note that some of the NT ethical instructions are phrased in semi-implementation forms (and related situationally-specific forms, too), and many would 'suggest' a suitable implementation formula. Consider how a believer might respond (with an implementation intention) to:


·         From James:

o        When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”

o        Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...

o        My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

o        Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.   If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

o        With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be

o        Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil

o        Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.  Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.


·         From Paul:

o        Share with God’s people who are in need

o        Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

o        Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

o        Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position

o        If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

o        Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters

o        Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

o        So then, whenever we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those of the family of faith.


·         From John:

o        If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

o        If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.


·         From Peter:

o        Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing

o        Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

o        Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ


·         From the gospels:

o        “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

o        If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.



In a modern setting, this should be reflected in preaching, teaching, and bible study (application) courses. Believers should be taught to form specific implementation statements, as part of learning how to submit their lives to the law of love, and the revelation of that law in Scripture. (This principle also generalizes to non-stereotype settings as indicated by the NT passages…For example, "when I get into a trial, I will first thank God for being with me, and being in control of my life")





In the NT case, this is addressed by the incessant calls to alertness, self-examination, personal behavior 'review, and conscious strivings to improve the quality of one's love and passion and grace and gentleness…and concrete help to others. Part of this is motivation to do so, but without the calls to grow and change and develop and improve, we couldn’t raise our personal awareness of these problems. In the case of outgroup-relationship problems, fortunately (smile), the NT won't let that one rest ever…We are constantly being reminded of our class-less family, in which all have the same status because all have the highest possible status--CHILDREN of the living God! We are constantly reminded that we are ALL new people in Christ. We are constantly taught that in Christ there is neither 'Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free'. We are constantly told to be on the alert for willful, sinful anti-ethical intrusions of the self-infatuated 'flesh'. We are told to go beyond just 'suppression of external atrocity' by focusing on the 'little atrocities' of slander, greed, divisiveness, elitism, arrogance, duplicity. The task is great, but the promise of God in the NT testament is that new creation life is achievable, by the simplest of believers, because of the 'love of God shed in our hearts by the Spirit'--an increasingly experiential fact of those who walk daily and openly and closely with Jesus.


In a modern setting, this can be achieved by helping folk develop these "chronic egalitarian goals." You can explain the problem (in layman's terms, perhaps linking some of these to aspects of the 'old life'--but remember that automaticity itself is positive; its just that it sometimes needs re-programming, like a old remote control with a new TV). Chronic egalitarian goals are exactly that--'chronic', so they need time to develop. Implementation intentions can create 'instant habits' (acc. to Moskowitz et. al), reducing this time, so these can flow from bible application exercises on class/social group passages in the NT. It will take more than preaching for this, for it has to reach a level of specificity, individual will, and close-to-home reality to get the vividness required for action.




This is less related to stereotyping than to well-being, but it is still reflective of the 'wisdom' of God's instruction to us. The NT definitely emphasizes the better goals, holding up self-control, beauty of spirit and grace of life, and loving God and one another in self-renewing community as premier goals for the Christian life. In fact, there is a definite 'minimization' of the less-important goals of wealth, fame, and position, even though they are not legalistically rejected. Some were noble, some were powerful, some were high-status--but those attributes were irrelevant in the kingdom community. (In fact, status values were reversed: the rich became poor, and the poor were rich.)  The kingdom was righteousness, joy, peace--and love.


In modern settings, this is often taught already (but not in certain 'prosperity' churches, perhaps?), but many are not aware that the paucity of 'rich goals' is well-documented in secular studies.




Closely related to the above point is the need for human closeness. As noted earlier, we are social beings from start to finish, and the NT has a surprising level of intimacy elements present. As noted elsewhere on the Tank, the Pauline epistles have an unusually high 'affection-terms density' in them, and early church life is thought to have been supremely intimate, affectionate, and emotionally-charged. Indeed, the intimacy possible with God Himself is held up as a goal(!), and forms a thread throughout the NT.


In modern settings, this should be every leader's focus--the intermingling of the believer's life with God's life and other lives. The Body cannot function without all the 'members' involved. Sociology teaches us that "social attachments" are the basis for the cooperative ties that hold an organization, group, or culture together. Intimacy with others is NOT developed by listening to sermons (motivation to do so might be, and intimacy with God might also be facilitated thereby, though); it is only developed by shared experiences. This can be shared social experiences (but these may be compromised by the stereotyping issues we are talking about in this piece), or it can be shared service experiences, in which diverse believers are working together on a task (with possibly fewer culture-variant forms of social 'ritual' than a potluck dinner or a praise service, for example). People "pulling together" at a homeless shelter, or praying together over a coming outreach program, or cooking/distributing food to shut-ins will build intimacy with fewer sub-cultural 'trappings' because of the more narrow task focus. In any event, closeness is only created by positive interaction [fyi, in business, customer loyalty is said to result from 'a long series of small interactions', instead of a single, large-scale or deep interaction], and some of the inter-group problems will need to be softened for this to bear increasing amounts of fruit.




·         "More prototypical, however, is research demonstrating that stereotypes are rigid (even in the face of contradictory evidence), and this resistance to change is not always consciously enforced through reflecting on societal norms with each judgment made. Rather, these norms become internalized and create passively operating standards that are used to guide judgments. New information is seen as consistent with internalized standards-stereotypes. In this way, stereotypes are maintained, even strengthened, because the search for coherence (Tajfel, 1969) leads us to ignore stereotype-inconsistent aspects to stimuli that would make categorization effortful (e.g., Darley & Gross, 1983; Hamilton & Rose, 1980). Such maintenance of stereotypes through stereotype-guided categorization (the search for coherence) is reflected in research on salience (-). decision making (-), social judgments (-), and outgroup homogeneity (-)...This research assumes that people typically pursue coherence through strategies that simplify the social world (-). This is most likely to occur when situations are ambiguous or when behavioral information is complex, allowing people to force interpretations on it. However, several studies suggest that when inconsistent behavior is highly diagnostic and too salient to ignore, it forces abandonment of stereotype- maintaining interpretations. Thus, stereotype inconsistent information is sometimes utilized in impressions (-) and this is most likely to occur when the data are unambiguous--when there is no room for interpretation. Diagnostic information can overpower what waits at the top of the head by 'hitting us over the head' with its clarity. This research addresses the point that stereotype use can be defeated by requiring the target of the stereotypes, the victim of one's perceptual biases, to act in a manner that is somehow diagnostic enough, consistent enough, and salient enough to hit the stereotyped [sic] person over the head and awaken the ability to individuate. " (Gollwitzer and Moskowitz/1996, p.385)


This deals with breaking up stereotypes of us, held by others about us. This basically says that when I act according to my stereotype, I confirm/reinforce the stereotype for those who see me. And, when I act inconsistently with my stereotype, to the extent the action is ambiguous, to that same extent I STILL confirm/reinforce the stereotype. But if I act way out of character for my stereotype, some people will abandon their stereotypical 'pigeon-holing' and trait assignment of me, and make an individuating assessment of me as an individual. In the NT, this basically meant that your life had to be so far above even 'good' (for your outgroup), for it to make a difference. The Jew had to be over-inclusive to overcome gentile stereotypes of them. Gentiles had to be over-pure to overcome Jewish prejudice about their immorality and idolatry. Slaves had to be over-reliable and over-disclosive to overcome patron-level believers' mistrust of them. The rich had to be over-humble and over-inclusive to overcome non-elite disrespect, avoidance, and mistrust of them. Peter once put it this way: "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." This was, of course, a case of Christians-as-outgroup, and their response of higher-ethics-than-imagined often worked. The pagan response to Christian love in the first couple of centuries of the church gave testimony that this could be done…


In a modern setting, this is not outgroup specific--all followers of the Lord Jesus are supposed to live so far above the "world" that believer-internal outgroups shouldn’t matter. If I am breaking negative stereotypes of "Western Christians" by an "extra-exceptional" life and love, there is a strong possibility that I am ALSO breaking negative stereotypes of my particular race, gender, age, and other outgroup characteristic. This should be approached by moral exhortation and instruction, motivation and example, and public recognition of excellence and of improvement. Additionally, believers should be alerted to this 'coherence data manipulation' problem all humans seem to have. This should be a part of regular teaching and awareness-building exercises, of course, since the coherence problem impacts all learning and correction processes.




This is actually a beautiful principle: when I am dependent on you for helping me achieve something of importance to me, I will take you more seriously, evaluate you more accurately, and treat you more importantly. In the NT, the common goal of the Christian community was to introduce the world to the unprecedented love of Jesus Christ, and to share with them the new life, the new resources, and the new family that God had graciously given to them. The teaching of 'all members in one Body' reinforced the dependency of ALL believers upon EACH believer. Peter said that each had a talent-gift for the benefit of all. Everybody had a place to help, a job to do, a contribution to make, a "thanks" to generate…When they needed to find someone to manage the food distribution, they didn’t pick the person on the basis of stereotypes, believe me. When they had to transmit money from Asia to Jerusalem, the carriers were selected with 'extreme individuation', I assure you! The interdependency of believers is a beautiful truth, and one that when understood, creates the above effect in how they relate. [On a personal note, after my divorce I defeatedly went to an Open House held by a relief ministry in San Jose. They had booths for each of the ministries that needed volunteers--the shelter, rehab, community education, food kitchen, tutoring, etc. I was interested in the rehab ministry and visited briefly with the person in charge. At the end of the conversation, I said something like "I would love to help in this ministry, but I need to tell you that I am divorced--can you still use me somehow?" He only paused a second and said "absolutely--we are desperate". I have often reflected that the early church must have been like this--the need was so urgent that each person was evaluated on how/how God could use them, not on the basis of their outgroup membership or  failed-but-forgiven history.]


In a modern setting, the implementation of this is obvious: put people working together in well-matched teams. Design ministry and service opportunity teams in such a way as to insure the interdependency of the members. This requires a knowledge of the people, of course, and this is not always held by leadership today, unfortunately. The task has to be important, of course, or else the 'cost' element described in the statement would not encourage greater accuracy in assessing the other team members. Also, an oblique (but perhaps fun) way to do this would be to have believers 'write up mini-biographies' of others, for inclusion in the bulletin, or membership directory, or such. Such tasks require greater individuation of information processing, and would serve this principle.



·         "Stereotype activation may be controllable so that either (1) one's goals inhibit stereotype activation or (2) some other construct besides the stereotype may be activated instead, what Allport (1954, p. 20) called a more dominant category being activated (see also Macrae, Bodenhausen, & Milne, 1995)...For example, Bargh and Pietromonaco (1982) primed the trait of hostility, but varied the prime frequency from 0% to 20% to 80% between subjects. Their data suggest that they only found the priming effect for the 80% condition; the category was not activated when only 20% of the stimuli were prime words, showing that constructs are not always activated by the mere presence of the prime raises the possibility that the 'mere presence' of a stigmatized group member or of a stereotype -relevant trait does not inevitably lead to stereotype activation." (Gollwitzer and Moskowitz/1996, p.388)


This principle is essentially 'stealing the stimulus' from the stereotyping auto proc! The process involves creating a different, competitive, and eventually stronger (i.e., more 'excitable') categorizing process than that of the stereotyping one. In the NT, this is done by "over-labeling" believers with terms of endearment ("children of God", "beloved of Christ"), terms of 'renewal' ("such were some of you", "saints", "faithful", "redeemed/freed", "washed"), and terms of accomplishment ("well spoken of", "faithful co-workers", "servants of the Lord"). As a new believer sat under the teaching of the leaders, and watched the lives of the elders, and mimicked the servant-hearts of the deacons and enrolled widows, increasingly the category of "Christian" or "child of God" or "washed and cleansed" or "loved of God" would dominate (at the stimulus firing level) the older stereotypical firings of "Jew, Greek, male, female, slave, free". Eventually the appearance of a servant's robe would not fire up the slave stereotype, but instead, the recognition of (perhaps) a Christian symbol, or the accompanying presence of a known Christian, would fire up the 'brother' or 'sister' or 'fellow pilgrim' categories. But this required consistent teaching by the apostles and leaders, and the NT reflects this emphasis in its moral instruction ("accept one another"), and in its founding theologies ("one body", "all equal in Christ", "no differential status").


In modern settings, this could be done by constantly parading outgroup members before ingroup members, and highlighting the 'new categories' in which they belong by grace. And, at the same time, the ingroup members should be reminded that they are first members of the 'new categories' and only THEN members of their respective in-group--the door swings both ways.




When I first read this, I immediately thought of blunt ol' bubble-popping James: "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?" (2.14) and "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves" (1.22); or even the reformed Son of Thunder John "But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." (1 Jn 3.17). The NT is consistent in its call to consistency! Calls to 'love without hypocrisy' and 'genuine love' and 'pure love' are surely exhortations to true commitment instead of mere "let us all recite the law of love together" professions! Commitment-all-the-way-to-others is the central component of our Lord's call: "…let him take up his cross and follow me…". It was not about profession, but about praxis. It was not about slogans, but about serving others. It was not about theological language, but about teeth-gritting love.


In a modern setting, this is a constant challenge--at least for Westerners. Often, there is no "cultural cost" associated with being a Christian, unless you are in academia or the arts or (sometimes) politics. There is no 'cost' before God, of course--a new life is a free gift for the simplest, most confused, most conflicted, most helpless of souls, who simply 'stumbles into the arms of Jesus' in the weakest of faith. [Not without cost to God, of course--remember that popular acronym of GRACE: "God's Riches At Christ's Expense".) In the NT, Paul could 'prove' his relationship with the Lord by how many times he had been beaten by religious zealots or pagans! The old slogan of "if you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be any/enough evidence to convict you?" should probably be incorporated into periodic retreats (or special event Sundays) for the people. A simple two-column self-scorecard would be workable: Column One would contain specific NT injunctions/directives for our sincere obedience, and Column Two would be for them to fill out with 'evidence that I have done this over the past quarter/year/whatever'. This could be followed up with a sealed, written 'commitment Column' between the believer and the Lord, detailing what areas would received increased commitment and attention this next period. Something in the spirit of this approach is necessary for healthy growth in commitment. (Remember, though, commitment is supposed to grow out of our love and gratitude and celebration of God's work for us. It is not a self-centered, self-aggrandizing, pump-yourself-up, self-martyrdom 'rugged determination'. It is more the response of a thawed and softened heart to erosive grace: "how can I possibly be cold to a love like His? How can I possibly resist such overtures of acceptance, compassion, and tenderness?!")




This shows up in the NT in a couple of places, mostly where the authors are telling their readers to 'accept one another', or pointing out that the old 'attributes' are to be ignored now--they are simply no longer relevant. Thus, Gentiles are no longer 'alienated from the covenants of promise', but are 'fellow heirs' etc.  Although most of the "you died with Christ" passages are directed at the readers' own self-understanding, by implication they enjoin us to see each other as 'dead' to old categories, status-distinctions, social relationships, and as new-born servants to righteousness. The example Jesus gave of the Good Samaritan is an excellent illustration of someone ignoring ethnic barriers, due to love of neighbor.


In a modern setting, this would need to be taught and reinforced by teachers and leaders. My personal experience in the western church is that the Christian members often do NOT 're-boot' their opinions/assessments of others when they become believers. They sometimes simply add on an extra 'attribute tag' of 'Christian' to whatever pre-Christian roles, status, group membership, etc the new members had. Teaching which would focus people on waking up to this problem could be a start, but other efforts such as team-work in ministry would be needed to give adequate opportunities to 'practice this'.





This was one of the strengths of the early Christian community. The church was considered a 'supergroup' (the redeemed of the Lord, saints, members of one Body, future heirs of the New Universe, etc.), and Christians never considered themselves as anything else. Their previous group memberships were part of the 'old life', except when it came time to 'go back and tell the others'. Any distance-creating status ("a Hebrew of the Hebrews") was considered useless and counterproductive labels. They were united in the universal Church, which knew no ethnic, geographical, or status boundaries. It was born from Love, and produced love. Inside was a warm fire, sweet companionship with others in love with the Lover, and a mission of beauty for all to share in together. And the early Christians lived this--they experienced intimacy and 'reduced bias'(smile). See urbxctt.html for the data on this.


In a modern setting, besides the obvious need for hammering away constantly on this in biblical teaching, exposure to Christians worldwide, pan-cultural, and pan-temporal, and even pan-denominational (smile) could assist this. The more we experience this oneness (and the unity I personally see from worldwide believers at the Tank confirms this mightily to me), then the more we will apply the 'supergroup' membership label to our brothers and sisters from different 'outgroups' (chuckle). There are few experiences as moving as encountering someone radically different from yourself in time, culture, or character--who loves Jesus with the same "gentle ferocity" you might, and who knows the same depth of grace and heights of joy and breadth of compassion as you have come to know…That moment of insight--in which you encounter another soul 'of whom the world is not worthy'--is a transforming one…you never look at people the same again…And each such experience changes your 'anthropology' a little more (smile)…




This is a fascinating point, because the demographic data we have about the players in the NT suggests that this was a widespread practice of the early Church. The workers--women, slaves, Gentiles, Hellenists, even Galileans (smile)--are frequently praised to the attention of the readers (and presumably, in actual meetings as well). As diverse as the early church was, and as 'utilized' as all the members would have been in the work of mission and social relief, the believers would have been "repeatedly reminded of admired members of those (out)groups". On the other hand, there is not a lot of mention of negative members of high-status groups, with possible exceptions of Alexander the coppersmith, the "litigious rich" in James, and the 'rhetorically elite' throughout Paul. But there is a common theme related to this last point in the NT: the high-status groups were 'inadequate' and 'ignoble' when it came to entering the experience of freedom and forgiveness. It was the weak, the low-born, and the poor of this world who were 'rich in faith'. So, there is a definite undercurrent of nullifying high-status there, and it is sometimes even associated with failure and ignominy (e.g., rejecting the Lord, rejection of truth, cold legalism, calloused profligacy, etc). But whereas the positive examples are of specific individuals, these possible negative ascriptions are confined to generic designations (e.g. 'the arrogant').


In a modern setting, this could be as simple as a teaching series on noted Christian disciples, selected from a very wide range of group memberships (and not just 'outgroups'!).




This is similar to many of the other points/methods discussed above--about exposing our people to everyday heroes of faith and love. The only difference is that this can be done 'from memory' and on demand, rather than requiring some type of 'exposure event' (e.g., speaker, video, etc). In the NT this is done almost automatically, as 'heroes of the faith' (a la Hebrews 11, Romans 16) are set forth as models, as is the 'reverse age-discriminated-against' young Timothy. Immediately after the NT period, the story of the heroic slave-women-leaders of the church in Bithynia would have circulated widely, setting forth an exemplar of a double-outgroup (in the ancient world). Of course, mimicry effects might be involved/invoked here as well, but to the extent the models were from diverse outgroups, to that extent our stereotypes would be modified.


In the modern setting, this would be accomplished in many of the initiatives mentioned above, but this approach must involve very concrete individuals and details (no 'class' generics allowed). Vivid, almost portrait-class stories of such people would serve this purpose. This is imagery, remember.




In this case, the research involved deliberate positive social interaction between an outgroup member (the black experimenter) and stereotypers (the white test subjects). The researcher points out that a 'shared social world' for the duration of the experiment, containing positive intergroup interactions, actually caused the white test subjects to 'tune' their view of blacks, even to the point of reversing the stereotype internally. The researcher argues on the basis of this that situational change is a better approach that trying to 'force attitude change onto deleterious situational contexts' (my torturous phrase, obviously). In the case of the NT, we do see an example of this. In the case of the status-disconnect at the Lord's Table in 1 Cor 11, Paul did NOT tell the elite Christians to adjust their old-status-based views of the poor Christians, nor did he instruct the poor Christians to 'bear with their situation with Christian humility'. Instead, he changed the structure of the situation. He told the people to 'eat their regular supper at home' (i.e., multiple-class eating affairs were highly socialized and class-reinforcing), so that the Lord's table could be the socially-integrating memorial/ritual event it was intended to be. He literally changed the structure/system in which the interaction occurred, insuring in the process that the interactions would be more positive. This was done--as most of 1 Corinthians concerns--the unity of a local church group divided along axes of education, wealth, ethnicity, and status.


In modern settings, this would involve some careful thinking about group activities, and possible changes to them. You would need to review each routine event and ask the questions about what type of intergroup interactions would likely occur. In the case of narrow-ministry events (e.g., food distribution, visiting the sick, working in shelters, tutoring disadvantaged kids), I would suspect the number of 'culturally specific' elements would be lower than in cases of events involving art forms (e.g., music/worship services?) or subcultural practices that might be less uniform across, for example, the rich-poor divide (e.g., wine & cheese parties, progressive dinners?). You might also consider asking various intimate outgroup members (within your Christian community) to actually point out what aspects of church/parachurch life are experienced negatively by their group. In the Body, where honesty and gentleness are supposed to be married ('speaking the truth in love'), it can only be positive for the leadership to receive such feedback--as long as their hearts are open and willing to obey Christ wherever He leads…





In the NT (as in moral education generally), 'bad examples' are also discussed, with the end goal of creating an internalized auto-rejection of misanthropic traits from the examples. This is done in two-ways: the delineation of negative traits (e.g., arrogance, callousness, malice, treachery) and the inculcation of positive traits (most of the above points). The goal of this instruction was to produce people who 'hated evil' and 'loved good'--consistently--in their lives. The NT is always quick, however, to remind its readers that they have no reason to feel 'superior' (fostering arrogance and elitism!) to the 'unrighteous', since they themselves both WERE such, and STILL wrestle with (and sometimes, fall under the influence of) the common temptations of all humans (in biblical terms, the 'flesh'). The call to honesty about this, should always also create the consequences of humility and empathy for others.


In a modern setting, this should primarily be done (IMO) by teaching from the scriptures, since it is too easy to become self-righteous in judging others (contemporaries) around us. We should always be mindful of the 'by what standard you judge others, you will be judged'--and we should be very, very slow in using contemporary examples (IMO). There are plenty of biblical passages and examples to work from. There is a call and a time for prophetic critique of others and institutions, to be sure, but we must always be sensitive to the 'log in our own eye' issues as a prerequisite.





All in all, I think this shows that the biblical data is not in any way in opposition to the data of social/cognitive psychology. Instead, it looks as if the NT ethical and pastoral praxis was quite effective at (unknowingly) leveraging in-built-by-God human mental and social processes.


By way of conclusion:


  1. The data from automaticity and priming research do not exclude free will in the least.

  2. The researchers in the field do not assert that automatic processes negate free will (and on  the contrary, repeatedly affirm that volition control processes are typically 'sovereign' in cases of conflict with automatic processes).

  3. The most recent research in the field by Bargh/Gollwitzer, their typical research collaborators, and  others, increasingly supports/recognizes the malleability and various levels/types of controllability of these processes (by various types of mediations and interventions).

  4. Traditional Christian/Theistic accounts of free-will are in conflict with neither this data, nor even the statement in the original question.

  5. The biblical data is reflective of the 'unseen world of automaticity' and indeed, gives us illustrations as to how aberrant versions of stereotypical processes would have been corrected and/or inhibited in early church life.


Accordingly, I think the data--both from research and the biblical corpus--more or less sustains the traditional notions of free will and moral responsibility. (It doesn’t 'prove it', of course, but that wasn't the intent of the question.)


This topic was fascinating, convicting, and transforming--I intend to bring my life in greater conformity to the One who calls hearts from 'every tribe and language and nations and peoples'…  Glenn Miller, September 28, 2002



Works references in the (combined) article:



Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, Corrine I. Voils, and Margo J. Monteith, "Implicit Associations as the Seeds of Intergroup Bias: How Easily Do They Take Root?", in Journal of  Personality and Social Psychology,  November 2001, Volume 81, Number 5.


Bargh, John. "The Cognitive Monster: The Case against the controllability of automatic stereotype effects",  in Dual Process Theories in Social Psychology. S. Chaiken and Y. Trope (eds). Guilford:1999.


Bargh and K. Barndollar, "Automaticity in Action: The Unconscious as Repository of Chronic Goals and Motives", in Gollwitzer and Bargh, The Psychology of Action: Linking Cognition and Motivation to Behavior, Guilford:1996


Bargh and Chartrand. "The Unbearable Automaticity of Being". American Psychologist July 1999 Vol. 54, No. 7, 462-479).


Bargh and Chartrand. "The Mind in the Middle: A Practical Guide to Priming and Automaticity Research", in Handbook of Research Methods in Social Psychology, H. Reis and C. Judd (eds), Cambridge:2000, pp. 253-285.


Irene V. Blair, Jennifer E. Ma, and Alison P. Lenton,  "Imagining Stereotypes Away: The Moderation of Implicit Stereotypes Through Mental Imagery" in Journal of  Personality and Social Psychology,  November 2001, Volume 81, Number 5.


Tanya L. Chartrand and John Bargh. "Automatic Activation of Impression Formation and Memorization Goals: Nonconscious Goal Priming Reproduces Effects of Explicit Task Instructions."  JNL of Personality and Social Psychology (1996). Vol. 71. No. 3. 464-478.


Dasgupta, Nilanjana  and Greenwald, Anthony G.  "On the Malleability of Automatic Attitudes: Combating Automatic Prejudice With Images of Admired and Disliked Individuals" in Journal of  Personality and Social Psychology,  November 2001, Volume 81, Number 5.


Patricia Devine and Margo Monteith. "Automaticity and Control in Stereotyping",  in Dual Process Theories in Social Psychology. S. Chaiken and Y. Trope (eds). Guilford:1999.


Peter M. Gollwitzer. "Implementation Intentions: Strong Effects of Simple Plans".  July 1999. American Psychologist. Vol.54, No. 7, 493-503.


Peter Gollwitzer and Gordon Moskowitz. "Goal Effects on Action and Cognition", in Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles. E. Higgins and A. Kruglanski (eds). GuilfordPress:1996.


Hertel, Guido and Klaus Fiedler, "Fair and dependent versus egoistic and free: effects of semantic and evaluative priming on the 'Ring Measure of Social Values'", European Journal of Social Psychology 28 (1998), pp49-70.


Kihlstrom, John. Class lectures/syllabus, UC Berkeley, Sprint term 1999, Course: Scientific Approaches to Consciousness, at


Karl Christoph Klauer and Jochen Musch (Psychological Institute, University of Bonn). "Evidence for no affective priming in the naming task". Extended version of a poster presented to the 10th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Society. May 23rd, 1998.  At


Locke and Kristof, "Volitional Choices in the Goal Achievement Process", in Gollwitzer and Bargh, The Psychology of Action: Linking Cognition and Motivation to Behavior, Guilford:1996


Jorgen Lovbakke, Kyle A. Lang, Rachael K.E. Powell, and Alexander K.O. Robertson. "The Automaticity of Behavior: Does Activation of a Stereotype Affect Performance on a General Knowledge Task?"  (Dept of Psychology, University of St. Andrews). At


Brian S. Lowery, Curtis D. Hardin, and Stacey Sinclai,  "Social Influence Effects on Automatic Racial Prejudice" in Journal of  Personality and Social Psychology,  November 2001, Volume 81, Number 5.


Gordon Moskowitz, Peter Gollwitzer, Wolfgang Wasel and Bernd Schaal. "Preconscious Control of Stereotype Activation Through Chronic Egalitarian Goals."  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 77, No.1 , 167-184 (1999).


Laurie A. Rudman, Richard D. Ashmore, and Melvin L. Gary, "Unlearning Automatic Biases: The Malleability of Implicit Prejudice and Stereotypes" in Journal of  Personality and Social Psychology,  November 2001, Volume 81, Number 5.


Joseph Tzelgov.  "Automaticity and Processing without Awareness." Psyche, 5(3), April 1999. Available at


Daniel M. Wegner and John A. Bargh. "Control and Automaticity in Social Life", in Handbook of Social Psychology (4/e). D. Gilbert, S. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (eds). McGraw-Hill:1998.


Bernd Wittenbrink, Charles M. Judd, and Bernadette Park, "Spontaneous Prejudice in Context: Variability in Automatically Activated Attitudes" in Journal of  Personality and Social Psychology,  November 2001, Volume 81, Number 5.


The Christian ThinkTank...[] (Reference Abbreviations)