There’s a lot of buzz this morning about a new study which seems to show a preference for women over otherwise identical men. I haven’t had a chance to look in detail yet, but so far I am struck by one fact about the study: Rather than giving subjects CVs to evaluate, the experimenters gave them vignettes which included marital status and history and number of children– that is, precisely the stuff you’re not allowed to ask about in hiring. In reflecting on why this study has obtained such different results from all the CV studies, I find myself suspecting this played a role. Perhaps being explicitly given such prejudicial information put people on guard in a way that led them to overcompensate for possible biases.
At any rate, this certainly doesn’t count against my view that as much of hiring as possible should be conducted anonymously. Indeed, it shows that such anonymity may be necessary to block the operation of different biases under different circumstances.