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Making good people feel bad

Vani Saraswathi his book is the longest Ive taken to read 209 pages (appendices included), outside of academic curriculum. Not because it was a tedious read, but because of the strong temptation to take every single test associated (implicit.harvard.edu) with the subject of the book, and prove the authors wrong. Much of what Blind Spot draws reference from is the American socio-political environment. But the Good People and the Hidden Biases could be from anywhere in the world. Both the country I am native of and the one I live in are quite oblivious to casual racism. Stereotyping is the norm. And in writing the last two sentences, I have shown a blind spot to the large number of people who cant be accused of this, thereby justifying why the Good folks who are explicitly libertarian need to be conscious of their hidden biases. In the preface, the authors say: It is with some trepidation that we refer to good people in this books subtitle. We have no special competence (let alone the moral authority) to judge () we refer to those, ourselves included, who intend well and who strive to align their behaviour with their intentions. What Banaji and Greenwald argue is that while biases dont completely go away (while taking tests both showed biases of Blind Spot white=good and Biases of Good People: male=math) it is impor- Hidden Mahzarin R. Banaji, tant to be conscious of it, Anthony G. Greenwald; so as to not allow impor- Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., tant decisions be marred 11, Community Centre, by our hidden biases. Our Panchsheel Park, highest aim for this book is New Delhi-110017. Rs. 599. to explain the science sufciently so that these good versions of IAT (Implied people will be better able Attitude Test), and it has to achieve that alignment. been used by others to support the premise of Implied Attitude Test their research as well. Over a couple of decades Which means, just of research the authors, about every stereotyping who are also collaborators or biases one can be acon the testing methodol- cused of can be tested, and ogy, have done various often proven. The authors refer to the blind spot arising from biases as a mindbug, and stress: In understanding mindbugs, a persuasive reason to take them seriously is self-interest: Stereotypes can negatively affect our action toward ourselves. For the Indian reader, more than race or religion, what needs critical understanding is gender stereotype. Doubly reinforced by a strong patriarchal system. The whole male=science/maths, female=arts (is the low female enrolment at IIT a self-fullling prophecy?) is just the tip of the gender stereotyping iceberg. An argument that Ive often made (based on personal experience and not research, though) is that students of all-girls school grow up with fewer stereotypes. When the key inuencers in all spheres are women, and when you compete on merit without gender playing a role in it, stereotypes are weakened. Which is what studies that have they translate into behaviour. Why this would not be Disassociation an easy task is because Much of our biases are a there is also a need for the result of the difference be- mind to categorise or stertween two facets of our eotype. The authors quote mind: the reective and Gordon Allport (The Nathe automatic. It is inex- ture of Prejudice, 1954): plicable to us, how our The human mind must conscious mind expresses think with the aid of catea well-thought-out prefer- gories Once formed, catence, but the automatic egories are the basis for side of our mind makes normal prejudgment. We assumptions to the con- cannot possibly avoid this trary. Every day, auto- process. Orderly living dematic preferences steer us pends on it. Which probably extoward less conscious decisions, but they are hard plains the unconscious into explain because they re- group preferences of even main impervious to the those who mean no malice probes of conscious to the out-group. And this was true for even groups motivation. This disassociation formed on the imsiest of the occurrence, in one and grounds (in a study) let the same mind, of mutual- alone those that have ly inconsistent ideas that deeper roots like religion, remain isolated from one gender, and of course, another manifests itself race. The struggle now is to in the best of us. The Good accept that we possess People. What the book and the stereotypes, but strive to IATs wish to do is help not apply it. (Vani Saraswathi is a people understand hidQatar-based Indian den biases and, if desired, journalist) to neutralise them before used the revealed. IATs