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Blindspot
Cover of Blindspot
Blindspot
Hidden Biases of Good People
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"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...
"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...
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Description-

  • "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

Excerpts-

  • Chapter One

    Mindbugs

    It is an ordinary day on a college campus. Students and professors of experimental psychology have filed into a lecture hall to listen to a distinguished visiting scientist explain how our minds perceive the physical world. Nothing about his tweed jacket and unkempt hair suggests the challenge he is about to deliver. A few minutes into the lecture, he says matter-of-factly, "As you can see, the two tabletops are exactly the same in shape and size."

    Shuffling in their seats, some in the audience frown while others smile in embarrassment because, as anyone can plainly see, he is dead wrong. Some tilt their heads from side to side, to test if a literal shift in perspective will help. Others wonder whether they should bother staying for the lecture if this nonsense is just the start.

    The nonbelievers are caught short, though, when the speaker proceeds to show the truth of his audacious claim. Using an overhead projector, he takes a transparent plastic sheet containing only a single red parallelogram, lays it over the tabletop on the left, and shows that it fits perfectly. He then rotates the plastic sheet clockwise, and places the parallelogram over the tabletop on the right; it fits perfectly there as well. An audible gasp fills the hall as the speaker moves the red frame back and forth, and the room breaks into laugher. With nothing more than a faint smile the speaker goes on to complete his lecture on how the eye receives, the brain registers, and the mind interprets visual information.

    Unconvinced? You can try the test yourself. Find some paper thin enough to trace the outline of one of the tabletops, and then move the outline over to the other tabletop. If you don't find that the shape of the first tabletop fits identically onto the second tabletop, there can be only one explanation--you've botched the tracing job, because the table surfaces are precisely the same.

    But how can this be?

    Visual Mindbugs

    You, like us, have just succumbed to a famous visual illusion, one that produces an error in the mind's ability to perceive a pair of objects as they actually are. We will call such errors mindbugs--ingrained habits of thought that lead to errors in how we perceive, remember, reason, and make decisions.1

    The psychologist Roger Shepard, a genius who has delighted in the art of confounding, created this illusion called Turning the Tables. When we look at the images of the two table surfaces, our retinas do, in fact, receive them as identical in shape and size. In other words, the retina "sees" the tabletops quite accurately. However, when the eye transmits that information to the brain's visual cortex, where depth is perceived, the trouble begins.

    The incorrect perception that the two tabletops are strikingly different in shape occurs effortlessly, because the brain automatically converts the 2-D image that exists both on the page and on the retina into a 3-D interpretation of the tabletop shapes as they must be in the natural world. The automatic processes of the mind, in other words, impose the third dimension of depth onto this scene. And the conscious, reflective processes of the mind accept the illusion unquestioningly. So much so that when encountering the speaker's assertion that the tabletop outlines are the same, the conscious mind's first reaction is to consider it to be sheer nonsense.

    Natural selection has endowed the minds of humans and other large animals to operate successfully in a three-dimensional world. Having no experience in a world other than a 3-D one, the brain we have continues to perform its conscious perceptual corrections of the tables' dimensions to make them appear as they...

About the Author-

  • Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald, collaborators for more than thirty years, are kindred spirits in their search to understand how the mind operates in social contexts. Banaji teaches at Harvard University, Greenwald at the University of Washington. With their colleague Brian Nosek, they are co-developers of the Implicit Association Test, a method that transformed them, their research, and their field of inquiry. In this book, for the first time, research evidence from their labs and from the more than fourteen million completed tests at implicit.harvard.edu is made available to the general reader.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 12, 2012
    Citing the influence of “mindbugs”—ingrained judgments and biases that unconsciously influence behavior—social psychologists Banaji and Greenwald, professors at Harvard and the University of Washington, respectively, provide an accessible and persuasive account of the causes of stereotyping and discrimination. Using numerous tests and data sets, the authors demonstrate that while most Americans are not overtly racist, a majority show implicit preferences for whites versus African-Americans, which can lead to discriminatory treatment of the latter and economic and social disparities. Similar associations can be seen with regard to gender biases and ageism, to the extent that even members of these groups have internalized stereotypes. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these results is the degree to which these mindbugs then become self-fulfilling prophecies, to the point where “people... are willing to sacrifice their self-interest for the sake of maintaining the existing social order.” What arises as critical is that these behaviors often occur in ways that are subtle and unintentional, having more to do with a favoritism of one’s own in-group, rather than actual animosity toward others. Banaji and Greenwald will keep even nonpsychology students engaged with plenty of self-examinations and compelling elucidations of case studies and experiments. Agent: Katinka Matson and John Brockman, Brockman Inc.

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2012
    An examination of how beliefs are shaped by hidden bias. Banaji (Psychology/Harvard Univ.) and Greenwald (Psychology/Univ. of Washington) argue that the 4 percent divergence between Barack Obama's actual white American votes in 2008 and pre-election polls is an indication of the racial factors involved. In their opinion, had Obama "been obliged to rely only on the white American electorate, he would have lost in a landslide." The authors have collaborated since 1980 and have developed survey methods designed to reveal what they call "unconscious" or implicit cognition. The Implicit Association Test (developed by Greenwald in 1994) is one of these methods, which they and others have used to help understand the role that unconscious bias or prejudice plays in shaping attitudes. (On the Oprah Winfrey show, Malcolm Gladwell described how he took one of the tests and was shocked at the results: "I was biased--slightly biased--against Black people, toward White people, which horrified me because my mom's Jamaican.") Subjects taking the test are required to make rapid associations to reveal unconscious associations with race, gender and age. The authors discuss how, paradoxically, these associative mechanisms also confer cognitive benefits: "Stereotyping achieves the desirable effect of allowing us to rapidly perceive total strangers as distinctive individuals." Their tests have produced a "large body of data" on the relationship between automatic associations and the reflective mind. A stimulating treatment that should help readers deal with irrational biases that they would otherwise consciously reject.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Psychology Today

    "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 "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 "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 "A wonderfully cogent, socially relevant, and engaging book that helps us think smarter and more humanely. This is psychological science at its best, by two of its shining stars."--David G. Myers, professor, Hope College, and author of Intuition: Its Powers and Perils "[The authors'] work has revolutionized social psychology, proving that--unconsciously--people are affected by dangerous stereotypes."

  • Kirkus Reviews "An accessible and persuasive account of the causes of stereotyping and discrimination . . . Banaji and Greenwald will keep even nonpsychology students engaged with plenty of self-examinations and compelling elucidations of case studies and experiments."--Publishers Weekly "A stimulating treatment that should help readers deal with irrational biases that they would otherwise consciously reject."

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