A new test being developed in the UK, which claims to uncover hidden racism, has raised a storm of controversy.
Org Geldenhuys, director of Pretoria-based IT recruitment company Abacus Recruitment, says that, withing a year, the "implicity" test developed by the London Metropolitan University could be available to organisations.
he adds: "If it is successful in the UK, it might be a good idea for our government to look at importing this new software and using it in the South African workplace."
According to an article in www.contractorUK, the test can detect potentially lazy employees, as well as highlighting candidates who are likely to believe stereotypes about ethnic groups.
The report further states that: "Candidates will be asked to put images of black and white faces in order of 'good/positive' and 'bad/negative' by rapidly hitting keys on a keyboard. As subjects must select the faces under time constraints, the test side-steps 'cognitive control' – the brief period that enables people to give an 'acceptable' answer over an 'honest' one."
Geldenhuys says the software has the ability to report on the candidates "response index", which shows the level of racial bias.
Speaking to the UK newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph, the University's Nigel Marlow – who is involved in developing the test – says it "is a subtle way to catch racists out".
He adds: "It is based on the implicit attitude theory, which suggests that some time people are not even aware of some of their deep-seated biases."
Geldenhuys points out that there are some concerns that the test could consitute an invasion of provacy. "It is a controversial topic. But I think it will be interesting to see what happens with the software in the UK – if this plan does progress."
One of the protagonists of the idea is Philip Hammond, the shadow work and pensions secretary in the UK, who, according to www.contractorUK, is of the opinion that the concept is akin to something the Orwellian "thought police" would suggest.
"We are already a heavily monitored society with people being watched in all kinds of ways. A test to delve into the subconscious mind is frightening."