[Book] Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People

(Book cover for Blindspot, taken from Amazon)

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People (by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald)

3 points that stuck with me:

  • The Implicit Association Tests (IAT) allow researchers to measure the magnitude of implicit biases without asking the subject to self-declare. The assumption seems to be that accuracy/reaction speed has a direct correlation to your comfort with an association (e.g. science = male).
  • There is a difference between possessing/knowing biases and endorsing them. For example, you can be aware of stereotypes about certain categories of people and completely abhor them, but these stereotypes might still be subconsciously affecting your actions.
  • The formation of “us vs. them” thinking can happen almost arbitrarily, but the benefits conferred are *SUPER* real. Guess this means middle school was real life after all.

My thoughts:

This is a quick, simple read. I’m not familiar with psychology and weak against dry texts, so I really appreciated how the book guides you from the introduction of IAT, to the analysis of both what the resulting data might imply and where the data might be inconclusive, to explaining the complex connections between bias, privilege, and in-group/out-group thinking.

I’m curious whether any of this book’s inferences on racism in America have changed since the 2016 election, but I haven’t looked into this yet.

They have also a version of these tests that you can take online, to assess whether you hold strong associations in one direction or the other. I ended up pleasantly surprised with my result in one only to be un-pleasantly un-surprised in another. (Ah well, just another thing to be conscious of.)

Recommended for:

  • The psychology novice
  • The casual non-fiction reader
  • Those curious about their own implicit biases (you can test yourself at their website: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html)
  • Those interested in the question “Is America Racist?” and in understanding why others might disagree with you

Have you read this? Do you have you any recommendations for me?

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