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Lack of Sleep Leads to Prejudice and Stereotyping

Update Date: Jul 24, 2013 01:55 PM EDT

People tend to learn prejudices and stereotypes early on in life depending on the types of community, family and environment that exist in people's upbringings. Studying why prejudicial and stereotypical behaviors develop is important because these behaviors greatly affect how people interact with one another. In a recent study conducted by assistant professor, Sonia Ghumman from the University of Hawaii at Mañoa Shidler College of business, and colleagues, they found that a lack of sleep could contribute to these types of behaviors.

"In our research, 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," explained Ghumman reported by Medical Xpress. "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 team recruited around 400 undergraduate students from the University. Ghumman and co-researcher, C.M. Barnes created a series of three studies to look for any associations between sleep and prejudice. In the first experiment, the students looked at a photograph of a Muslim woman. The students were asked to describe a typical day in that woman's life. From this part of the study, the researchers noted that participants who had fewer sleep were more likely to describe the woman's life using stereotypes that apply to Muslim women.

In the next experiment, the students were given resumes with either stereotypically black or white names. The students were told that the people on the resumes were applying for a position. The researchers found that a lack of sleep once again led to more prejudiced behaviors as sleepy students rated black candidates lower than white ones. In the last experiment, the researchers wanted to look at implicit associations, which focus on unconscious and automatic biases individuals might have toward people of other races. The researchers discovered that the participants with less hours of sleep had stronger automatic biases toward black people.

This study adds on to numerous studies that have found that a lack of sleep can lead to poorer judgment. The study, "Sleep and Prejudice: A resource recovery approach" was published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

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