Undecided? You might be wrong about that.

 From the AAAS’s Science,** (ht to the NY Times):  People who declare themselves undecided may have non-conscious biases that are inclining them to a particular decision:

When deciding between choices, people usually feel as if they’re completely in control. They evaluate the criteria and weigh the available information before committing. And when that information doesn’t seem to tip the balance, they report that they are undecided. But psychologists know that decision-making is strongly affected by the unconscious mind. Might the unconscious mind of an undecided person already know what it will choose?

The answer is “Yes.”  By using an implicit associations test, the researchers were able to predict the undecideds decisions with 70% accuracy. 

So is this news to any feminist who has watched supposedly neutral people decide admissions, prizes or jobs?  Probably not.  But there are at least two points here worth noting:  Now when a colleague talks about neurtrality, we can whip out Science!  And it’s strong and recent evidence that the implicit association tests are connected to actual decisions. 

For standard implicit association tests, try here.

(Note:  for accuracy’s sake, I should note that the Times reports the study as principally concerned with the difference between people who could decide on examining the evidence and those whom the evidence left undecided.  I read the report just as I was thinking of how I could convince a group of people to take seriously the idea that they might really be bigots (of the nicest, least conscious sort, of course).  Hence, my take concerns evidence of bias of which one is not aware.)

**This is a press release; an editorial and the actual study require subscription or library access.

Grab your whistle and don the striped shirt

Feminist philosophers are not usually hurting for work.  Especially at the early career stages, we’re infamous for prioritizing teaching and service above scholarship, we’re often drafted as token women or feminist-friendly men on committees and panels, and as so many can attest, learning the ropes of the profession from the edges can keep us busy as well. (Hey, reinventing the wheel takes time!)

Yet I find that I resemble the remarks in recent online discussion about philosophers who don’t contribute to the labor of anonymous refereeing for journals, even as I have become a more active writer. I’m struck by the suggestion that perhaps we should referee twice as many articles as we submit.  How annoyingly sensible.  And as it turns out, philosopher-editors appreciate it when I volunteer.  So, my feminist friends, although you’re disproportionately likely to have service coming out of your ears, consider improving our discipline for all our sakes: Most importantly, submit feminist philosophy to journals!, and depending on what journals are in your area, volunteer to referee!

A message from your friendly neighborhood service-hog.

Surgical Tools and Hand Size

It seems many surgical tools are still being made with male hands (generally larger than female ones) in mind. A new study argues that tools for smaller hands are needed (which would of course also help males with smaller hands). Strikes me as a nice example of the way that non-obvious barriers to women’s advancement may remain in place even once obvious ones have been removed. Also makes me really appreciate the additional barriers that a surgeon friend of mine undoubtedly had to face even once she got past the people (surgeons, in the UK) telling her that she shouldn’t be a surgeon because she’s a woman, and even after she’d convinced them (a lengthy battle) to allow her to work part-time in order to get some time with her daughter. (Thanks, Jender-Parents!)