On looking at some terrific work** on racism in the justice system, I realized there’s something a lot of us may not realize.
So here’s something that you want to watch out for: your experience may confirm your biases, but not for a good reason. And the not-good reason is that biases, even ones we are completely unaware of, can shape our experience to a remarkable extent.
One of the interesting ways this works out shows how unexpected the effects may be: if you have the stereotype of black men as dangerous, then the darker a man’s color, the more dangerous he will probably seem.
One thing this means is that if you go into an interview with thoughts like “I have an open mind and I am perfectly prepared to find out that minority candidates are among the best,” then you may be deceiving yourself. Open minds are very hard to come by. Just open your eyes and look and you may well just see what you unconsciously expect to see.
It’s hard for me to guess what cues might heighten biases, and so what interviewees should avoid. However, it does look to me as though one should ignore any thoughts like, “I am going to demonstrate by my creative independence by not dressing like a cookie cutter academic.” But I could be wrong!
** The work I’ve been looking at is Jennifer Eberhardt’s; here the link to her lab’s publication page at Stanford. Some time ago, we mentioned videos of lectures by her here and here. There’s also a lot about vision and expectations in Simon and Cabris’ The Invisible Gorilla.