Implicit and Explicit Race and Gender Bias in Intercollegiate Policy Debate

Allison Harper

Advisor: Tim Gibson, PhD, Department of Communication

Committee Members: Warren Decker, Mark C. Hopson, Xiaoquan Zhao

Johnson Center, #326 Meeting room B
November 28, 2018, 12:30 PM to 02:30 PM


This dissertation explores the tangible lack of race and gender diversity in the college policy debate community in an effort to improve the understanding of the intersection of unconscious biases, explicit attitudes regarding race and gender, and communication. This dissertation employs two studies. The first study uses correspondence testing to expand on existing research regarding potential bias in mutual preference judging.  The second uses Implicit Association Testing (IAT) to measure unconscious bias and relate that information to either preference assignments from debaters or speaker point assignments from judges. In study 1, White female and Black male judges were not significantly less preferred than their White male counterparts in any philosophy condition.  Occasionally, they were more preferred. In study 2, no significant relationships were found between implicit race and gender associations and either mutual preference judging decisions or speaker point assignments.   Explicit racial attitudes were a better predictor of judge preferences, but explicit gender attitudes did not have a significant effect.   Implicit biases also did not have a significant relationship with Intercultural Communication Anxiety. To the extent that White and male debaters and judges enjoy advantages, explicit attitudes would seem to be a better predictor of behavior than implicit attitudes.