The “The Turban Effect”: Studies Reveal Latent Islamophobia

AlterNet’s Tom Jacobs wrote about two new studies that examine Islamophobia in students and healthcare professionals.

The first study, dubbed “The Turban Effect,” was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of South Wales in Australia, and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. It states that:

simply noticing someone is a Muslim increases aggressive tendencies on the part of non-Muslim Westerners.

Student participants were asked to shoot at targets, some of which wore clothing distinctively identified with Muslims.

The researchers found:

The targets who received the highest number of hits were Muslim-looking, non-Caucasian males; the fewest hits were for non-Muslim, Caucasian females

This bias highlights the Islamophobia of the participants’ environments: Christian Unkelbach, one of the researchers, said, “The most common response was, ‘I’m sure I didn’t show that effect.’ They’re uncomfortable and I believe them – people are not doing this willingly. If they could, they would control that. Here, people are almost the victims of what they are fed by their environment.”

The second study was conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Missouri, and published in the Medical Decision Making journal. It looks at the biased ways that medical students evaluate patients, based on the patient’s religion.

The participants were given emergency room admittance forms that included the patient’s religion for patients complaining of chest pains. The study found that the medical students evaluated Muslim patients with lower cardiac risk assessments and Christian patients with higher cardiac risk assessments, though the patient information and symptoms were identical.

Researchers connect these evaluations to reminders of mortality:

“These patterns are in accord with many previous findings that concerns with death motivate people to cling more tenaciously to their cultural beliefs, to like people who support those beliefs and to disparage those who even subtly threaten such beliefs.”

Not only does this bias break medical anti-discrimination laws and the Hippocratic oath, but it can also literally be the difference between life (after serious and proper assessment of risks and consequential treatment) and death.

On the other hand, these studies highlight the very real effects of Islamophobia, which is the first step to eradicating it.

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