I‘m on a plane writing this post and I look harmless, or at least not threatening.
According to work presented by Poornima Madhavan from Old Dominion University, being a female in the screening line means I am less likely to be hassled by a false alarm of a screener seeing a threat in my bag.*
In work done with her graduate student Jeremy Brown, Dr. Madhavan found that participants in their studies consistently reported more false alarms (detecting a threat that was not there) when the passenger was male. Both genders showed this bias.
Because this bias affects a perceptual task (detecting a knife in a baggage x-ray) it is called a “Social Cognitive Bias.”
This project is a wonderful example of an applied experiment that gives us information on the effects social and cultural structures can have on cognitive ability.
Photo credit Wayan Vota under a Creative Commons license.
*No matter what gender you are, carrying climbing gear guarantees a search!