November 11, 2016

Have you spent this week feeling confused? Us too. Whoever you voted for, you’re probably just as surprised about this election as we are. So what can explain the difference between expectations and the outcome? Mahzarin Banaji, a professor of psychology at Harvard and co-author of Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, thinks that our unconscious played a role.

Three Takeaways:

  • Banaji says that she can’t prove any actual bias in the election. “As a scientist, I can’t say in any particular case, like the Clinton case, whether implicit bias [was a factor].... The question of implicit bias is tricky, because in its very nature it is hidden. So we cannot say in any given case like this election, whether it played a role and if it did, how much of a role it played.”
  • However, Banaji is also quick to point out that her research has proved bias in other contexts. Many of us, not just men, have unconscious biases toward women. “The research evidence shows that implicit bias does not favor women in the workplace.” We like women, but we just don’t associate them with power or leadership. Banaji thinks that because Hillary Clinton was a symbol of power and leadership, she also became less likable. 
  • Banaji was surprised that the gender question rarely came up in the election. At least, directly. She does think that it came up, indirectly, quite often. “[Clinton] belongs to the very category of the people that he groped. She is the one, a couple years younger than him, who has to explain her stamina.”

More Reading:

NPR, Donald Trump, election, innovation hub, pri, WGBH, Mahzarin Banaji, Kara Miller

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