Are you going to be interviewing job applicants soon?

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.

Is that cartoon racist? Yes.

That’s the one showing the police standing over the dead chimp and remarking about how someone else is going to have to write the next stimulus bill.

We mentioned Harvard’s videos from the Project on Law and the Mind before, along with Jennifer Eberhardt’s 3 on racism.  They have helpfully put her talk on the black-ape association up separately.  Here it is:

  That should answer the question of whether it is insight or paranoia that is behind the charges of racism.

The cartoon does employ a racial stereotype and to that extent it is definitely racist.


PLMSTube is a product of Harvard’s Project on Law and the Mind Sciences.  You should be able to get to it here.  There are a number of video-lectures that should be of interest to readers of this blog.  Jennifer Eberhardt’s set of videos is being discussed over at What Sorts of People; it’s on race and implicit bias and attitudes.  Since the talks look at how such factors actually play out in the justice system, they are pretty horrifying.   We ought to know about this research. 

Another three are about System Justification theory, and cover a lot of topics relevant to this blog’s interests.  Here’s the description:

System justification theory addresses the holding of attitudes that are often contrary to one’s own self-interest and therefore contrary to what one would expect on the basis of theories of self-enhancement or rational self-interest. Thus, our research focuses on counter-intuitive outcomes, such as the internalization of unfavorable stereotypes about one’s own group, nonconscious biases that perpetuate inequality, attitudinal ambivalence directed at fellow ingroup members who challenge the system, opposition to equality among members of disadvantaged groups, rationalization of anticipated social and political outcomes, and tendencies among members of powerless groups to subjectively enhance the legitimacy of their powerlessness and, in some cases, to show greater support for the system than do members of powerful groups