Recent studies have shown that sleeping helps boosts memory and learning ability. But new findings by a team of researchers indicate sleeping might even help humans get rid of deep-rooted intrinsic biases, including sexism and racism.
A research team from Northwestern University has claimed that an individual can unlearn the unconscious and conscious biases within themselves with the help of "counter-stereotype training."
During this training, patients are exposed to a few typical sounds, after which they are allowed to sleep for a short duration. The researchers discovered that a person's recall ability was dependent on whether learning-related sounds were also played while they were taking a nap.
“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 lead study author Ken Paller, in a statement.
Xiaoqing Hu and his team used the same technique to see if the intrinsic biases could be modified using the conditioning exercises. For the exercise, the team recruited 40 subjects, including men and women aged 18 to 30.
The participants were asked to complete two sets of counter-stereotype training, at the end of which the researchers found that their intrinsic bias had fallen down by more than 50 percent. According to Hu, the participants continued to be less biased, although by nearly 20 percent, even after a week of conducting the exercises.
"It is somewhat surprising that the sleep-based intervention could have an impact that was still apparent one week later. The usual expectation is that a brief, one-time intervention is not strong enough to have a lasting influence," said Hu, in a statement.
The complete study has been published in the journal Science.