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Tony Greenwald cited in Powell Tribune article about "Mindbugs."

Mindbugs in the Equality State

Posted By Pat Stuart

We’re the “Equality State,” a name evoked often this year as we look back on 150 years of women having the vote.

Me, I love the name, the concept of equality and the challenges it poses — ones we’ve been discussing more than usual this year as we wonder why women earn so much less than men and debate associated questions.

Of course, we’ll never all be equal. Genetics tells us that we don’t start out that way, that our ancestors bequeathed us unequal quotients of raw material to either use or not as our circumstances and thinking dictate. It’s those pesky circumstances that claim most of our attention. But, maybe, we should be focused more on our thinking.

I was reminded of this by a book called, “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People,” by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald, that says we all acquire blind spots as we grow up. These are stereotypes relating to gender, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, etc.

Obviously, such stereotypes — such blindspots — affect our thinking, shaping our decisions and our actions in ways so ingrained that we’re often unaware of their existence. They play in police profiling, corporate hiring, who we marry, who we invite to our home and on and on. They even end up as unacknowledged stereotypes about ourselves!

The authors refer to all of these as “mindbugs.” Think about it, about how many times you’ve backed away from a situation because, “I can’t do that” which soon morphs into, “I don’t want to do that.” Which is only one of the more blatantly obvious tricks the mind plays on itself.

What Banaji and Greenwald are saying is that we not only have unconscious biases about ourselves and others, but we hide them from ourselves. “I didn’t want to do that, anyway,” we say. “He wouldn’t have done well in the job, anyway.” Or, “She’ll have to be given maternity leave and stuff like that, so she deserves a lower salary.” Or ...

If you think you’re immune, try one of the many online bias tests. I did and discovered I had built-in prejudices against women in public life (ironic considering my run for county commissioner), about blacks in intellectual jobs and more. This came home again recently watching PBS Newshour, which included comments on challenges faced by an astrophysicist

Read the entire article here .