The Situationist

Archive for March 19th, 2008

Banaji & Greenwald on Edge – Part III

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 19, 2008

Mahzarin Banaji & Anthony GreenwaldThere is a great video interview of Tony Greewald and Situationist contributor Mahzarin Banaji on Edge. We’re posting parts of the transcript in several bite-sized installments. Part I is here; Part II is here.

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GREENWALD: The race IAT was critical. It is the version of the IAT that got the widest attention, and it is the one we would most often demonstrate in lectures. That is another of the IAT’s virtues: you can give a group demonstration and show a room full of people all at the same time that they have this shared difficulty in giving the same response to Category A and to Category B, but if you the switch the sides of the two categories, it becomes very easy.

We, and also many of our colleagues, have been very motivated by the discovery that the IAT reveals these associations with race effect in our own heads. The effect does not show up in everyone, but in perhaps 70 to 75 percent of those who have tried the test. Some are upset by this observation. They are concerned that the test is, in effect, accusing them of being prejudiced. That reaction has led us to take pains to distinguish what this test measures from what is ordinarily meant by prejudice.

Prejudice is ordinarily understood as a state of mind that leads to intentional discriminatory behavior. People who have no intent to discriminate and no dislike of a racial group might think that their IAT result was characterizing them as prejudiced. We have repeatedly said, no, that it is not what the result means. In describing what the IAT measures, we have been careful to use phrases such as ‘implicit attitude,’ ‘implicit preference,’ and ‘automatic preference,’ while avoiding the unqualified word ‘prejudice’. Incidentally, if we did describe the test as measuring prejudice, then we would be accusing ourselves of being prejudiced.

BANAJI: One of the great insights this test has provided for me is the ability to look at what might be evolutionarily “old ways” in which we tend to behave when left to our own devices. Our social preferences must have some roots in our early social groups and interactions. From having evolved in a world where people on the other side of the river were either people you killed or people who would kill you. We now live in a world where we have to outsource to those same people on the other side of the river! We have to be friends enough with them to understand their culture so that we can get them to do things with us and to think about our common fate.

It is one thing to say, “The law says you should do this or that.” It is quite another thing to say, Well, if we are really smart, and if we are really the adaptive creatures that we are, we are going to look at the ways in which we behave and see that they are not necessarily to our advantage. And as we learn we will change. And we will change in all of the ways in which we are going to need to. Like the work we need to do and will do to solve our environmental problems. Or our health problems. Eating too much is a problem because our bodies evolved in a world where food was far less abundant that it has come to be (for many people in the world). We cope by thinking about calorie intake and output in new ways. I think one of the tests of human intelligence will be whether we can take insights that are inconvenient truths about our minds, turn them around, and use such knowledge to create a better society – by which I mean, one that is line with our consciously chosen aspirations, rather than one we are being driven toward out of ignorance of who we are and our past.

GREENWALD: The IAT provides a useful window into some otherwise difficult-to-detect contents of our minds. In some cases, we find things we did not know were there. It may be “an inconvenient truth” that what’s there is not what we thought was there or want to be there. But I think it is generally something we can come to grips with.

BANAJI: We have to believe that everyone is to blame, or rather everybody is responsible. It is not just the media. It is not just your parents. Instead, we find to be attractive those metaphors that come from air borne pollutants. What our minds acquire comes from the stuff that is hanging around in the atmosphere. It is in the water. It is in the air. When that is the case, you cannot hold individual people responsible. You can hold larger units and larger groups of people responsible in the same way that we do in order to solve the problem of environmental damage.

To come back to the test, I think an intuitive way to understand what it does is to imagine working with a deck of playing cards. If I ask you to sort the cards into two piles—red cards on one side; black cards on the other—you should be able to do so relatively easily. Let’s say I measure the time it takes you to put the red cards to the right and the black cards to the left and use a stopwatch to time you. Then I say, “All right, I am going to time you again. This time put the hearts and clubs to one side, and the spades and diamonds to the other”, and I start the stopwatch again. . We would all understand intuitively that the second sorting should take longer than the first. And the difference in time is indicative of the cognitive ease of the first relative to the second.

Like that, the IAT is trying to capture the difference between two sortings. When we encounter two things that have not been paired together very much in our experience, it takes a little longer to put them together because they are strangers to each other, making the task difficult. Working from this assumption, the IAT requests pairings of say Obama and good and Hillary and good and looks at the relative speed of judgment and the error rates. What is nifty is that you can replace Obama and Hillary with anything you want. If you are interested in looking at your preference for Coca-Cola versus Pepsi-Cola, you can adapt the test to do that.

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For a eight-minute review of IAT research by Scientific American (including clips of both Mahzarin Banaji and Brian Nosek, who each explain how the biases can operate outside of, or contrary to, one’s intentions), watch the video below.

Posted in Implicit Associations, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Space & Place (Situation) of Rural Women

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 19, 2008


Lisa Pruitt, Professor of Law at University of California, Davis (and blogger on Legal Ruralism Blog) has posted a fine new paper on SSRN: “Of Spaces and Spheres: What Critical Geography Can Teach Law about Rural Women.” The abstract is as follows:

Like other legal scholars, feminists often think about social change over time, using history as a lens to reveal disadvantage and injustice. They have demonstrated, for example, that the public/private divide and related separate spheres ideology are socially contingent developments based on evolving perceptions of women and gender roles. Shifts in such perceptions have thus informed legal changes, and vice versa.

This Article argues that a more grounded and more nuanced understanding of women’s lived realities requires legal scholars to engage not only history, but also geography. Because spatial aspects of women’s lives implicate inequality and moral agency, they have direct relevance to an array of legal issues. I thus deploy the tools of critical geographers – space, place, and scale – to inform law and policy-making about an overlooked population for whom spatiality can be a profoundly influential force: rural women.

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Here is an excerpt (footnotes omitted) in which Professor Pruitt briefly describes and illustrates what she means by the concepts of space, place, and scale.

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In this Article, I argue that a better understanding of women’s lived realities, including their encounters with the law, requires legal scholars to engage not only history, but also geography. Because spatial aspects of women’s lives implicate inequality and moral agency, they are directly relevant to an array of legal issues. Like feminists in other disciplines, I deploy the tools of critical geographers – space, place, and scale, but I do so with a view toward informing law and policy-making about a frequently overlooked population: rural women.

While historical analysis relies on the vector of time, geographic analysis uses the complementary vector of space. “Space” is an abstract concept that refers both to the familiar idea of physical surroundings (physical space) and to the impact that particular spatial configurations have on many aspects of life, from social relationships to economic opportunity (social space). Attending to rurality seems an obvious aspect of the “space” part of critical geography given the literal, physical isolation of rural residents and rural communities from one another, as well as the influence of this reality on how rural spaces and places are socially constructed. “Place” is a more concrete subset of space. Analysis based on place considers particular locales, taking into account the range of characteristics that distinguish one place from another. “Scale” is a unit of measure of space and place, e.g., the household, the region, the globe.

These spatial concepts are illustrated by a brief example based largely upon an empirical study of gender in rural Appalachia in which changes at a global scale are shown to have material consequences at regional and local scales, even at the micro-sites of household and body. Global economic forces cause a mine closure, leaving many local miners unemployed.

Viewing available service jobs as beneath them, the male miners move into private or quasi-public spaces, away from the formal market. They resort to the informal economy (e.g., car repair, cutting and hauling firewood) to help make ends meet. At the same time, many of the miners’ wives move from the domestic and private spaces of the home into the public spaces of the market by taking paid work to supplement family coffers.

Their newfound status as earners confers some power on the women. This alters the division of reproductive labor in the private space of the household, while also endowing women with greater power in the various public spaces of the wider community. Shifts thus occur at multiple scales. Changes may reverberate across even higher scales as women take on leadership roles in local and regional political movements. At the same time, agitation about shifting gender roles and the stress of economic hardship can lead to intimate abuse, which implicates lower scales, such as the body.

Law and legal actors also have roles in these socio-spatial phenomena playing out in real places. These roles include, for example, global trade agreements that lead to rural economic restructuring and federal and state laws that govern employment law. At the other end of the causal chain, they include local law enforcement responses to intimate abuse and other “lower” scale consequences.

As this scenario illustrates, critical geography can bring “the rural” into scholarly view and presents expansive opportunities for legal scholarship. Unlike rural sociology and rural economics, which seem to thrive as disciplines, legal scholars and critical geographers ignore the rural/urban axis. I am thus challenging the often implicit scholarly association of both critical geography and law with that which is urban.

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To access the entire paper, which includes a primer on critical geography, click here

Posted in Abstracts, Geography | Leave a Comment »


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