In the U.S. Presidential Debate last night, when asked if she believes police are implicitly biased against black people, Hillary Clinton responded: “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police. I think unfortunately too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other and therefore I think we need all of us to be asked the hard questions ‘why am I feeling this way?” Today’s headlines about the comment are generally negative, with the Washington Times declaring “Hillary Clinton calls the entire nation racist.” But for those of us with backgrounds in social psychology, that’s not what she said at all. Rather, Clinton’s comment reflects a fundamental psychological truth.
Subcategorization is a social identity dynamic that can have either negative or positive ramifications for behavior. This psychological process happens when a person or group is deliberately excluded from comparison. It’s what US Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez just did to her teammate Simone Biles when she told Aly Raisman before the floor exercise competition, “If you get silver again, you’re the best, because Simone doesn’t count.”
When you encounter someone for the first time by their name alone–in an email or a letter, as a person referenced in a story online or in a newspaper, or when someone else mentions a person they know–are you able to guess much about them? Our first names actually offer powerful clues to our ages, which can in turn shape the way people perceive us . . . all before they even meet us. Continue reading What’s In A Name? A Lot, If You Have Good Data
Everyone knows sleep is good for us. It’s a time to refresh and recharge, for our bodies to heal and our minds to rest after a busy day. We’ve known for a while that sleep helps with memory consolidation (Walker & Stickgold, 2004); that is, sleep helps the brain organize what it’s learned so it can be better remembered and used in the future. New evidence suggests that sleep can also “seal in” lessons the waking brain learns around reducing racial bias and stereotyping. Continue reading Seal It With a Sleep: The Role of Sleep in Reducing Bias
Buzzfeed lists are often what I’d class as “just for fun” reading, but every now and then, one includes interesting new information or a thought-provoking perspective on important social issues. One I just stumbled across is titled “19 Times Tumblr Got Serious About the Struggles of Women in Our Society.” One of the entries included an insight that not only provides useful instruction for changing negative gut reactions to other people, but also speaks to a social psychological truth: Continue reading Unconscious Prejudice, Conscious Acceptance
In the past decade or so, there’s been an increased focus in psychology, and especially in social psychology, to replicate studies. The basic idea is that if a study’s results are accurate, then other researchers should be able to repeat the same study design and get the same results. If they can’t, then there might be a serious problem, such as: Continue reading Musings on Replication Studies
We all know that, unfortunately, discrimination and prejudice can limit opportunities for people. But belonging to a devalued group may also harm people’s workplace performance via the effects of associated stereotypes. In grad school, I became interested in how people who are successful despite belonging to such devalued groups do it. What’s going on psychologically that helps them overcome the negative effects of being viewed poorly by others based on group membership? Continue reading Strategies for Workplace Success While Coping with Stigma
You know people may judge you by the way you look. You can probably guess that people may also judge you by your email address, especially if it’s something embarrassing or revealing. But you might not realize that your email address can also cue people into other aspects of your identity that can then be used to stereotype you and even influence your behavior.
The first set of research projects I ever worked on examined stereotype threat and lift effects in the context of email addresses. I was an undergraduate student assisting on projects devised by Margaret Shih (now at UCLA) and Todd Pittinsky (now of Stony Brook University). To this day, I think these are very cool studies, and I credit them with making me fall in love with psychology. Continue reading What Your Email Address Says About You
“Stereotypes” is something of a dirty word in an egalitarian society. If we value fairness and the opportunity for individual success, then believing in stereotypes is counterproductive. But stereotypes do exist for a psychological reason, and maybe avoiding them isn’t really the answer to treating people fairly and well. Continue reading Are Stereotypes the Enemy?