Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji was once approached by a reporter for an interview. When Banaji heard the name of the magazine the reporter was writing for, she declined the interview: She didn’t think much of the magazine and believed it portrayed research in psychology inaccurately.
A patient received better treatment for saying they were a Yale professor than saying they were a quilter.
- People recognize acts of commission (doing bad stuff to others) as prejudice, not favoritism.
In the book, Banaji writes that Kaplan once had a terrible kitchen accident.
.. In many ways, the psychologists’ work mirrors the conclusion of another recent book: In The American Non-Dilemma: Racial Inequality without Racism, sociologist Nancy DiTomaso asks how it is that few people report feeling racial prejudice, while the United States still has enormous disparities. Discrimination today is less about treating people from other groups badly, DiTomaso writes, and more about giving preferential treatment to people who are part of our “in-groups.”
The insidious thing about favoritism is that it doesn’t feel icky in any way, Banaji says. We feel like a great friend when we give a buddy a foot in the door to a job interview at our workplace. We feel like good parents when we arrange a class trip for our daughter’s class to our place of work. We feel like generous people when we give our neighbors extra tickets to a sports game or a show.
In each case, however, Banaji, Greenwald and DiTomaso might argue, we strengthen existing patterns of advantage and disadvantage because our friends, neighbors and children’s classmates are overwhelmingly likely to share our own racial, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. When we help someone from one of these in-groups, we don’t stop to ask: Whom are we not helping?
.. Banaji tells a story in the book about a friend, Carla Kaplan, now a professor at Northeastern University. At the time, both Banaji and Kaplan were faculty members at Yale. Banaji says that Kaplan had a passion — quilting.
“She was washing a big crystal bowl in her kitchen,” Banaji says. “It slipped and it cut her hand quite severely.”
The gash went from Kaplan’s palm to her wrist. She raced over to Yale-New Haven Hospital. Pretty much the first thing she told the ER doctor was that she was a quilter. She was worried about her hand. The doctor reassured her and started to stitch her up. He was doing a perfectly competent job, she says.
But at this moment someone spotted Kaplan. It was a student, who was a volunteer at the hospital.
“The student saw her, recognized her, and said, ‘Professor Kaplan, what are you doing here?’ ” Banaji says.
The ER doctor froze. He looked at Kaplan. He asked the bleeding young woman if she was a Yale faculty member. Kaplan told him she was.
Everything changed in an instant. The hospital tracked down the best-known hand specialist in New England. They brought in a whole team of doctors. They operated for hours and tried to save practically every last nerve.
Banaji says she and Kaplan asked themselves later why the doctor had not called in the specialist right away. “Somehow,” Banaji says, “it must be that the doctor was not moved, did not feel compelled by the quilter story in the same way as he was compelled by a two-word phrase, ‘Yale professor.’ ”
Kaplan told Banaji that she was able to go back to quilting, but that she still occasionally feels a twinge in the hand. And it made her wonder what might have happened if she hadn’t received the best treatment.
Greenwald and Banaji are not suggesting that people stop helping their friends, relatives and neighbors. Rather, they suggest that we direct some effort to people we may not naturally think to help.
After reading the story about Kaplan, for example, one relative of Greenwald’s decided to do something about it. Every year, she used to donate a certain amount of money to her alma mater. After reading Kaplan’s story, Banaji says, the woman decided to keep giving money to her alma mater, but to split the donation in half. She now gives half to her alma mater and half to the United Negro College Fund.
“Debating the Trump Presidency” with
Public debate took place on October 12, 2018, at the University of Notre Dame.
And finally there was Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who told reporters Thursday afternoon, “I found no reason to find [Ford] not credible.”
.. As the strength of the year-old Me Too movement is put to its most public and crucial test yet, Republicans have the political savvy to recognize that they must pay lip service to it, even as they actively campaign against its aims. You could view these concessions as politically motivated to the point of being meaningless. But according to social science research into the complex interaction between social behaviors and privately held views, even self-interested nods at #MeToo may indicate some progress for the movement.
Recent, highly publicized cases of sexual harassment and assault have rapidly created a new norm in which it’s toxic to dismiss alleged survivors. Kavanaugh’s allies are responding to that norm, even if they don’t fully agree with its principles. Over time — and with some serious caveats — norms can influence private views, suggesting that even conservative beliefs on sexual harassment are likely to be shaped at least in the long term by #MeToo.
.. There are many, many examples of norms shifting, sometimes quite abruptly, as institutions tip in one direction or social movements come to fruition: same-sex marriage becoming broadly acceptable after the 2015 Supreme Court decision
.. people are more likely to recycle after they learn — through an article or in conversation — that many of their peers are recyclers... There are plenty of signs that conservative beliefs on sexual abuse have barely shifted since the Clarence Thomas hearings of 1991, such as the apparent assumption among Republicans that Ford’s story would be just a “hiccup” that they could “plow right through... Indeed, it may be like similar “evolutions” on racism, which find people eschewing the n-word in public while remaining as virulent as ever in private... studied how people learn prejudices based on what’s socially acceptable within a certain group — and how they change their views once the group changes... Crandall and his colleagues showed how white college freshmen, entering a new setting in which prejudice against black people was less socially acceptable than in their home towns, learned over the following year to question racist thoughts. “When norms change, or when people join groups that have different norms, there is conflict — with the outside world at first, and then a more internal struggle to fit in better,”.. The often-jarring conflicts we’re seeing between the public behavior and apparent private beliefs of those who support Kavanaugh may represent this initial, college-freshman stage of adapting to a society with changed norms on sexual assault. As #MeToo continues to shape norms around believing survivors, more conservatives could come around as well — not merely when it comes to action but also in their attitudes.
.. Unfortunately, prejudices about gender appear to be especially intractable
.. In cross-cultural work examining prejudice, she has found less sexism in more-developed countries, suggesting that sexism diminishes along with development.
.. “People have women in their families, so changing stereotypic gender roles is more disruptive than for other biases,”
Human history is in a time of great flux, of great cultural and spiritual change. The psyche doesn’t know what to do with so much information. I am told that if you take all of the information that human beings had up until 1900 and call that one unit, that unit now doubles every ten years. No wonder there’s so much anxiety, confusion, and mistaking fact for fiction and fiction for fact!
In light of today’s information overload, people are looking for a few clear certitudes by which to define themselves. We see various forms of fundamentalism in many religious leaders when it serves their cultural or political worldview. We surely see it at the lowest levels of religion—Christianity as well as Judaism, Islam, and secular fundamentalism, too—where God is used to justify violence, hatred, prejudice, and whatever is “my” way of doing things.
The fundamentalist mind likes answers and explanations so much that it remains willfully ignorant about how history arrived at those explanations or how self-serving they usually are. Satisfying untruth is more pleasing to us than unsatisfying truth, and Big Truth is invariably unsatisfying—at least to the small self.
Great spirituality, on the other hand, seeks a creative balance between opposites. As Jesuit William Johnston writes, “Faith is that breakthrough into that deep realm of the soul which accepts paradox with humility.”  When you go to one side or the other too much, you find yourself either overly righteous or overly skeptical and cynical. There must be a healthy middle, as we try to hold both the necessary light and darkness.