Another piece of the bias puzzle

For better or for worse, studying and working with philosophy does seem often to encourage introspection. Our discourse – at least for many of us – has lots and lots of references to our intuitions. And yet that leaves us with whole groups of philosophers who say things such as “I only care about quality, not race or gender,” and whose behavior puts such statements in question. E.g., they present themselves as simply interested in the quality of the work graduate students produce, but at the same time, they don’t give the time and attention to the work done by women students. Or they wouldn’t begin to consider hiring an African American, because they don’t want to participate in a practice that supposedly grossly inflates black salaries, etc, etc. As if they knew much about black salaries.

How in the world does one of the very most introspective of disciplines end up with such self-deceivers?

There’s a somewhat new answer that’s recorded in a New Yorker blog. Not maybe the most academic source, but the research is. Here’s the answer: bias is not revealed by introspection. People whose knowledge of themselves is more due to introspection than reflection on their behavior are more apt to be ignorant of their biases.

Well, duh!

So for starters we need to make biased behavior in the community much more visible and noticeable. And there’s been some progress on that.

Another thing one notices is that, generally speaking, you can get away with a lot of discriminatory behavior in academia without getting called out on it. Further, some kinds of censoring just drives the behavior in deeper. We need a combination of supportive, informative behavior and rewards. And there are people working on just this.

Sometimes victory is quick!

The pro-harassment sign is being taken down today!

Just over 24 hours ago I created this petition in response to a sign at the MarketFair Mall in New Jersey that promoted street harassment. I originally thought the E Allen Reeves Construction Company was responsible for the sign but, unfortunately, this was an error – I apologize for the mistake. However, when I called the mall to find out who was responsible for the sign, Robyn Marano, VP of Marketing at MarketFair Mall, informed me that this campaign brought the problematic nature of the sign to their attention and they will be removing it tonight. In other words, victory!

Awesome work Liz, Magical and Holly!