Hidden Biases of Good People

eBook - 2013
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Random House, Inc.
&;Accessible and authoritative . . . While we may not have much power to eradicate our own prejudices, we can counteract them. The first step is to turn a hidden bias into a visible one. . . . What if we&;re not the magnanimous people we think we are?&;&;The Washington Post

I know my own mind.
I am able to assess others in a fair and accurate way.

These self-perceptions are challenged by leading psychologists Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald as they explore the hidden biases we all carry from a lifetime of exposure to cultural attitudes about age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, and nationality.

&;Blindspot&; is the authors&; metaphor for the portion of the mind that houses hidden biases. Writing with simplicity and verve, Banaji and Greenwald question the extent to which our perceptions of social groups&;without our awareness or conscious control&;shape our likes and dislikes and our judgments about people&;s character, abilities, and potential.

In Blindspot, the authors reveal hidden biases based on their experience with the Implicit Association Test, a method that has revolutionized the way scientists learn about the human mind and that gives us a glimpse into what lies within the metaphoric blindspot.

The title&;s &;good people&; are those of us who strive to align our behavior with our intentions. The aim of Blindspot is to explain the science in plain enough language to help well-intentioned people achieve that alignment. By gaining awareness, we can adapt beliefs and behavior and &;outsmart the machine&; in our heads so we can be fairer to those around us. Venturing into this book is an invitation to understand our own minds.

Brilliant, authoritative, and utterly accessible, Blindspot is a book that will challenge and change readers for years to come.

Praise for Blindspot

&;Conversational . . . easy to read, and best of all, it has the potential, at least, to change the way you think about yourself.&;&;Leonard Mlodinow, The New York Review of Books

&;Banaji and Greenwald deserve a major award for writing such a lively and engaging book that conveys an important message: Mental processes that we are not aware of can affect what we think and what we do. Blindspot is one of the most illuminating books ever written on this topic.&;&;Elizabeth F. Loftus, Ph.D., distinguished professor, University of California, Irvine; past president, Association for Psychological Science; author of Eyewitness Testimony

Baker & Taylor
A pair of leading psychologists argues that prejudice toward others is often an unconscious part of the human psyche, providing an analysis of the science behind biased feelings while sharing guidelines for identifying and learning from hidden prejudices. 15,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Delacorte Press, c2013
ISBN: 9780440423294
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: Greenwald, Anthony G.


From the critics

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Jul 06, 2020

This is a short book, and I think I wrote down important parts out of about 1/3rd of it. If you are fans of Shankar Vedantam and NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast, this book is right up your alley. If you love brain science or psychology, you’ll enjoy it, as well.

The authors have been leading researchers on the subject of bias for 3+ decades at this point, and Banaji was a student of Greenwald’s in the 80’s. Greenwald was one of the researchers who developed the Implicit Association Test (IAT) in the 80’s, intended to detect the strength of a person's subconscious association between mental representations of objects/concepts in memory. You can take the quiz yourself online, but be aware that it is likely to reveal unconscious biases that will confuse and probably embarrass or even offend you. If it helps, remind yourself that ‘implicit bias’ does not automatically equal conscious prejudice.

The authors’ task with this book was “to follow the idea that human rationality is severely limited, and examine how we judge ourselves, other individuals, and the social collectives to which they and we belong.” They use the concept of “mindbugs” to do this, which they describe as “ingrained habits of thought that lead to errors in how we perceive, remember, reason, and make decisions. I relate these to how often my autopilot operates on faulty assumptions when he is directing my actions. This autopilot has an instruction manual that has been in development, consciously and unconsciously, since I was born. The manual is not only not written down anywhere, of course, but there are parts of it that I don’t even know exist. There are frequent occasions, on which the pilot (me) disagrees with the autopilot and I have to ensure my conscious brain is in charge or else I might say or do things that are antithetical to the conscious moral identity I’ve built for myself.

I’m tempted to share everything I learned from this book, but...come on. Just no. But the importance of understanding our implicit biases, our “mindbugs”, cannot be overstated, I think. “The disparity between our intentions/ideals and our behaviors/actions - they undermine self-awareness, threaten the ability to consciously control our actions, and obfuscate the cherished ideal of self-determination.” (p. 20).

Did you know that when we try to put ourselves in the shoes of someone in our “in-group” vs when we try to do this for someone outside of our in-group, a different part of our brain is at work?

For those of us working for racial equality and justice, this book puts together a lot of pieces as to why many White people support and vote for policies and politicians that will harm them. It also shows how we educated, progressive liberals can unknowingly support the status quo and therefore structural racism and white supremacy. This group is also the group with the biggest gap between their conscious bias and their unconscious bias.

A short, fascinating book that should be required reading for educators, law enforcement officers, social workers, politicians, corporate executives, hiring managers, and anyone interested in the unknown mechanisms of our brains -

4.75 of 5.0 Merritt Badges (I wanted more!)

Mar 05, 2020

This book was a common read at my work recently, and I was…underwhelmed. There’s some good stuff in here; Banaji and Greenwald do a great job at explaining the facets of their in-depth research on unconscious bias in an accessible way. The book is very readable, and the pages turn quickly, albeit a little repetitively. The main issue I had with it is that I didn’t feel they touched on the many ways that unconscious biases are often formed, shaped, and reinforced by very conscious policies and practices. I get that that may not necessarily be Banaji and Greenwald’s forte, but I would have gotten more out of the book if that was included.

Nov 03, 2015

Better subtitle: "So you're a little bit racist."

Jul 28, 2013

A tremendously challenging and thought-provoking book on the biases most of us hold even if we're not consciously bigoted or prejudiced by any means.

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