CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — University researchers have identified “sub-microaggressions” — insults so infinitesimal that they are beneath the level of conscious awareness of the person being snubbed, and can be detected only with highly sophisticated new voice analysis software.
“This astonishing scientific breakthrough is on a par with the discovery of the God Particle,” declares science writer Gordon K. Jowski. “Until now, the existence of sub-microaggressions, also known as nanoaggressions, was purely theoretical. Now we have proof.”
Under laboratory conditions, using highly sensitive microphones, a subject was recorded making the statement, “I totally support marriage equality.”
“Advanced software picked up micro-tremors indicating that the speaker was insincere,” reveals Jowski. “The system can also identify sarcasm too subtle for a victim to recognize.”
Ordinary microaggressions, first identified by Harvard and MIT experts in the early 1970s, are minor slights, usually uttered by well-meaning persons, that unintentionally communicate hostility toward people based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.
For example, telling a female colleague, “I love your shoes,” sends the message that you value her appearance more than her intellect. Saying, “I’m totally OCD about my desk,” trivializes the life experience of people who genuinely suffer from mental illness. Asking an Asian coworker after lunch, “Can you figure out the tip?” perpetuates the stereotype that all Asians are good at math. “Stand and be recognized” marginalizes people who are physically challenged.
“With microaggressions, the listener takes some degree of offense,” explains Jowski. “Sub-microaggression theory holds that sometimes the victim doesn’t pick up on a shift of tone or emphasis that communicates hostility – although he or she might subconsciously suffer psychological harm.”
The software analyzes soundwaves using psychoacoustic modeling, the science behind how humans distinguish and understand the meaning of sounds. Underlying emotions such as fear or resentment are revealed in a printout.
“It’s similar to Voice Stress Analysis (VSA), in how it measures psychophysiological responses, but far more advanced,” according to Jowski. “It’s based on technology originally developed by the NSA to scour overseas communications for possible terrorist threats. Now it can be adapted to help make America’s college campuses and office buildings safe spaces.”
The research team, from four top universities, made no specific recommendations for making practical use of the discovery, but some experts in the field believe microphones and computers equipped with the software should be installed in workplaces and colleges across the country.
“Microaggressions require a macro response,” declares Lauryn Coltbloom, a diversity consultant. “They are actually more damaging than overt expressions of bigotry precisely because they are small and therefore often downplayed, leading the victim to feel self-doubt rather than respond. Obviously, since nanoaggressions are 10 times more insignificant, society must put 10 times the effort into stamping them out.”
Copyright C. Michael Forsyth