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Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by…

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People

by Mahzarin R. Banaji

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(43) A read inspired by a diversity forum at work. How even egalitarian people behave in biased ways they they are unconscious of. How even members of the disadvantaged groups buy into negative stereotypes of their groups implicitly. How doing more favors for those who are in your in-group perhaps is actually a form of discrimination (this actually hit me the hardest) Very interesting and very disturbing. While I basically had this book 'spoiled' for me by the forum and other discussions I attended, I had never taken the IAT's. I scored like most of America - moderate white preference; strong preference for the young, moderate association of black race with violence, strong association of Asian with foreigner. I couldn't bear to do the gender stereotypes in regards to leadership - too depressing and I knew it would be an example of me having implicit bias against my own group.

So a compelling and potentially life-changing read, though the book itself was rather dry reading. I was skimming by the end. I was most interested in some of the discussions at the very end: racial disparity related to the groups responsibility or others responsibility? If it is some of both or all of one or the other, it would make affirmative action programs for gender and race/cultural minorities ethical vs unethical. I think once you prove your point with the IAT's, these would have been the more interesting discussions - but I get the book was just about the social science, not necessarily about what to do with it.

I don't know. Will America ever overcome the legacy of slavery? Will the world ever overcome its automatic preference for white and male? I feel a bit pessimistic about it now and frankly worse about myself as a person. I am not sure that that was the intent of the authors. But maybe we are making progress. . . ( )
  jhowell | Sep 23, 2017 |
You’re not racist, right? I mean, if given two equally qualified candidates for a job you were hiring for, you’d be just as likely to give it to the Black person as the White person, right? And you’re in favor of same sex marriage, so you definitely don’t give any preference to straight people, right?

Not so fast. The premise of this book – which is backed up by some pretty solid science – is that we all hold biases in our unconscious minds that influence what we do. Because they are unconscious biases, it’s hard to imagine we have them, and even harder to figure out how to address them. I mean, it’s one thing to make it illegal to ban people of a certain race from eating in one’s restaurant; how do you fix something that is so deep in your brain you don’t even know it is there?

The concepts in the book are mostly supported by the IAT, or Implicit Association Test. The book goes into much greater detail, but here’s the basic idea: when presented with a variety of words, is it easier for you (as measure by how quickly you do it) to sort them into the category associated with positive characteristics when that category is also associated with a specific race? So, if the option is Black/Positive and White/ Negative, and the word ‘happy’ pops up on the screen, is your reaction time sorting that correctly going to be slower than if the options are Black/Negative and White/Positive? If so, you have an unconscious preference for White people.

It’s a pretty fascinating test and, like I said, has been validated many times, and expanded beyond race to measure all sorts of different possible biases – I recently took the test to see if I had an unconscious negative association regarding people with disabilities. I did not – huzzah! You can play around with it yourself – but man, be prepared to be disappointed. The vast majority of folks who take the race test show at least some unconscious preference for White people. It’s a bummer.

So, what’s the point then? How do we fix this? That’s basically the problem with this book – there isn’t a lot here by way of suggestions as to how to fix this. I can think of some that are alluded to, such as vastly increasing the positive representations of people of color in the media so that those negative associations don’t creep into our minds. But being really aware of these biases seems to be a good place to start. That, and not being so defensive about whether there really still are biases out there. Just because you live in an area where people don’t call Black people the n-word or non-straight people the f-word doesn’t mean there aren’t unconscious biases at work. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 9, 2017 |
I participated in a workshop on Inclusion and Diversity and the presenters quoted from this book, so I found it and read it. Mixed thoughts. I've seen the IAT (Implicit Association Test) cited in other works and was familiar with the tests and the conclusions...this pretty much beat the subject into the ground. Okay, okay! Even if we don't think we have biases, the data show we do, and if we do acknowledge we have biases, the data show they are worse than we think.

The best takeaway from this book are the strategies for potentially outsmarting the "mindbugs". I like to think that intelligence can win, but I know better and this just implies further confirmation. When you try to outsmart yourself...good luck. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
The short form:

Humans are really good at detecting patterns
All cultures include assumptions about groups
Humans absorb these assumptions as implicit associations regardless of their explicit beliefs
More privileged people grossly underestimate the harm from small acts of prejudice against less privileged people
Good people recognize these mindbugs and seek ways to work around them

Try and be excellent to each other

Library copy ( )
  Kaethe | Oct 16, 2016 |
MOOC referred to by Learning how to learn
  Egaro | Feb 20, 2016 |
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In this accessible and groundbreaking look at the science of prejudice, Banaji and Greenwald show that prejudice and unconscious biases toward others are a fundamental part of the human psyche.

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