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Archive for the ‘Implicit Associations’ Category

Implicit Gender Bias in Legal Profession

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 9, 2011

Justin Levinson and Danielle Young posted their excellent article, “Implicit Gender Bias in the Legal Profession: An Empirical Study” (Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2010) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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In order to test the hypothesis that implicit gender bias drives the continued subordination of women in the legal profession, we designed and conducted an empirical study. The study tested whether law students hold implicit gender biases related to women in the legal profession, and further tested whether these implicit biases predict discriminatory decision-making. The results of the study were both concerning and hopeful. As predicted, we found that implicit biases were pervasive; a diverse group of both male and female law students implicitly associated judges with men, not women, and also associated women with the home and family. Yet the results of the remaining portions of the study offered hope. Participants were frequently able to resist their implicit biases and make decisions in gender neutral ways. Taken together, the results of the study highlight two conflicting sides of the ongoing gender debate: first, that the power of implicit gender biases persists, even in the next generation of lawyers; and second, that the emergence of a new generation of egalitarian law students may offer some hope for the future.

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Download article for free.

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Sarah Haskins on “Ladyfriend” Stereotypes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 21, 2011

From :

The best part about being a girl is your girlfriends. They keep you happy when you’re sad and make you laugh when you want to cry, and most importantly, tell you what to buy.

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Posted in Entertainment, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Life, Marketing, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Policy Implications of Implicit Social Cognition

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 4, 2011

Situationist Contributor Brian Nosek and Rachel Riskind recently posted their paper, “Policy Implications of Implicit Social Cognition” on SSRN.  Here is the abstract.

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Basic research in implicit social cognition demonstrates that thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness or conscious control can influence perception, judgment and action. Implicit measures reveal that people possess implicit attitudes and stereotypes about social groups that are often distinct from their explicitly endorsed beliefs and values. The evidence that behavior can be influenced by implicit social cognition contrasts with social policies that implicitly or explicitly assume that people know and control the causes of their behavior. We consider the present state of evidence for implicit social cognition and its implications for social policy. We conclude that considering implicit social cognition can contribute usefully to policy, but that most uses of implicit measures themselves as selection or evaluation devices is not easily justified.

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Download the paper for free here.

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For a list of Situationist posts discussing the research on implicit bias and the IAT, click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Law, Legal Theory, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Implicit Bias Symposium (with links to videos)

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 19, 2011

UCLA (March 3, 2011)

Agenda

Welcome & Introduction by Dean’s Office

  • Kirk Stark, Vice Dean, UCLA, Law

Implicit Bias and the Courts — Substantive Framing and Introduction

  • Jerry Kang, Co-Director PULSE, UCLA, Law

1. State of the Science  – Implicit Biases / in the Courtroom. This panel will share and present findings from psychology about how biases, including but not limited to implicit biases measured through reaction-time instruments, may influence the courtroom and related judicial institutions. This panel will provide attendees with a state-of-the-art description of the predictive and ecological validities of various bias measures, with careful exposition of which theories, mechanisms, and findings enjoy which sorts of scientific “consensus.”

Panelists:

  • Nilanjana Dasgupta, U. Mass Amherst, Psychology
  • Justin Levinson, U. Hawaii, Law
  • Anthony Greenwald, U. Washington, Psychology

Moderator:  Phillip Atiba Goff, UCLA, Psychology

Video: Substantive Framing & Panel 1: State of the Science: Implicit Biases in the Courtroom
(volume is quite low — you will have to turn up your speakers; volume for other streams are normal)

2. State of the Field — Institutional Responses So Far. This panel will focus on the various ways in which legal institutions, including the judiciary and legal procedures, have responded to the emerging evidence of implicit biases. Judicial educators, judges, and academics will describe and assess what has been done, and to what effect– given various economic, political, and scientific constraints.

Panelists:

  • David Faigman, UC Hastings, Law
  • Pam Casey, National Center on State Courts
  • Dist. Court Judge Mark Bennett, N.D. Iowa
  • Judge Michael Linfield, LA Superior Court

Moderator:   Ingrid Eagly, UCLA, Law

Video: Panel 2: State of the Field (Institutional Responses So Far)

ROOM 1447
1 – 2:20 pm

Box Lunch and Public Interview with Anthony Greenwald, U. Washington, Psychology (Inventor of the Implicit Association Test).  Interviewers:  PULSE co-directors Jerry Kang & Jennifer Mnookin.

Video: Public Interview with Anthony Greenwald, Inventor of IAT

2:20 – 4 pm

3. Possibilities and Complications:  Theoretical and Practical, Legal and Scientific. The morning panels will have brought the audience up to speed on the state of the art.  This panel pulls back the lens to explore the various theoretical possibilities and practical complications connected to measuring biases, measuring their consequences, and implementing potential debiasing strategies.  Both legal and scientific complexities will be addressed.

Panelists:

  • Rachel Godsil, Seton Hall Law
  • Jeffrey Rachlinski, Cornell, Law
  • Devon Carbado, UCLA, Law
  • Jerry Kang, UCLA, Law

Moderator: Jennifer Mnookin, UCLA, Law

Video: Panel 3: Possibilities and Complications: Theoretical and Practical, Legal and Scientific

4:00 – 4:30 pm

Afternoon break & refreshments

4:30 – 6 pm

4. Back to Reality — Roundtable Discussion:  Concrete Solutions and Next Steps. The last panel will bring back all the panelists for a final robust, interdisciplinary, and unscripted conversation about the challenges and opportunities highlighted throughout the day. What can and should be done now? What research agenda will provide the knowledge necessary to lessen the impact of implicit bias within the courtroom and the judiciary?  What forces, besides the scientific merits, might drive the conversation and debate?

Moderator: Jerry Kang, UCLA, Law

Video: Panel 4: Back to Reality – Rountable Discussion: Concrete Solutions and Next Steps

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Colorblind? Really?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 12, 2011

From Sister Blog, Law and Mind (by HLS student, Rachel Funk):

Aunt Vivian: Gee, when Janice described him she didn’t mention that he was…tall. Not that I have a problem with people who are…tall.
Uncle Lester: My cousin used to date a girl who was…tall.
Uncle Phil: Heck, the boy go to a predominantly…tall school.
Will: Now, am I alone on this or didn’t y’all notice he was white?

~ Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Episode #2.6, Guess Who’s Coming to Marry)

In a short article in the February/March 2009 issue of Scientific American Mind, Siri Carpenter discusses two studies done by psychologists at Tufts and Harvard indicating that people who avoid mentioning race may actually appear more prejudiced. In the experiment, one white participant was paired up with one black participant, and they were each given the same set of photographs of random people. The black participant would choose a photograph, and the white participant had to figure out as quickly as possible which photograph his/her partner had chosen by asking him/her questions about each one in succession. The study was designed so that the matching process would go much faster if the white participant asked about the race of the person in the photograph. Significantly, the study found that the “intrepid few” who asked about race were deemed less prejudiced by black observers than the vast majority of white participants who didn’t mention race at all.

If that finding is accurate and generally applicable, then we as a society have totally f***ed up in making it a taboo to mention someone’s race. We have conflated defining someone by their race with simply acknowledging their race.

In her fantastic book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” And Other Conversations About Race, Dr. Beverly Tatum confronts this issue head-on. In reading about the above experiment, I was reminded of the following anecdote from her book:

“A father reported that his eight-year-old daughter had been talking very enthusiastically about a friend she had made at school. One day when he picked his daughter up from school, he asked her to point out her new friend. Trying to point her out of a large group of children on the playground, his daughter elaborately described what the child was wearing. She never said she was the only Black girl in the group.”

Despite the white father’s being thrilled that his daughter was colorblind, Dr. Tatum suggests — and I think that this is probably right — that the girl’s avoidance of mentioning her friend’s race was not so much a sign that she was colorblind as it was that she had been trained not to make explicit reference to someone’s race. (Interestingly, in the two studies mentioned earlier, one was done with adults, but the other one was done with children as young as 10 — the results were consistent across the two studies.) As further evidence of this phenomenon, Dr. Tatum notes that “[m]y White college students sometimes refer to someone as Black in hushed tones, sometimes whispering the word as though it were a secret or a potentially scandalous identification.”

When I was taking the Trial Advocacy Workshop at Harvard Law School, I had to do a closing statement for a mock police brutality case, in which a white policeman in a predominately white, upper-class neighborhood had allegedly assaulted the plaintiff, a black man who had been waiting to pick his daughter up from her white friend’s house. “Ladies and gentlemen,” I began, “what do we know? We know that Robin Boyd was a black man in a white neighborhood.” As soon as I said “black”, the temperature in the room dropped by several degrees, I think because everyone stopped breathing.

For anyone who doesn’t know me, I am extremely white. Pasty, even. And as a member of the oppressor group (or, to dress it up in fancy psychspeak, the socially dominant ingroup), it is my responsibility to avoid drawing attention to this fact. But why? Why is it that we feel the need to go out of our way to avoid mentioning someone’s race, and often feel uncomfortable if someone else brings it up? Is it part of some elaborate construction of a fiction that we’re colorblind? Or does it stem from a fear that we might unintentionally offend somebody, so it’s safest to take the path of least resistance and avoid mentioning race altogether?

Dr. Tatum points out that many, if not most, white people simply never think about their race: “There is a lot of silence about race in White communities, and as a consequence, Whites tend to think of racial identity as something that other people have, not something that is salient for them.”

This insight reminded of a time when I was riding the Metro in southeast D.C., an area of D.C. that is predominantly black. I spent the entire time being acutely aware of the fact that I was the only white person on the train, wondering whether this was all everyone else was noticing too, and trying to act like I hadn’t noticed. In an uncomfortable moment of revelation, I wondered whether this is what the handful of black students at most higher ed institutions feel like all the time.

Most of the time, the default race position is white. For instance, in a novel, unless the author indicates otherwise (either by explicitly describing the character’s race, or by laying out a context in which most of the characters will be of a specific minority, like the burgeoning class of novels geared specifically towards African Americans), we generally assume any characters that pop up are white. In fact, I remember being struck by, while reading one of Robert Parker‘s Spenser novels, the fact that the (white) narrator mentioned that another character was white. While Mr. Parker delights in bringing racial issues up in oblique, peripheral ways — I should note that the Spenser books are easy-read mystery/crime novels, not the kind of deep, soul-searching, trying-to-make-a-statement books you’d expect to confront issues about race — it still caught me off-guard. It surprised me that it surprised me, so to speak.

Time for a politically incorrect anecdote: One day, when my friends and I were walking back to Harvard from the Square, a couple stopped and asked us for directions to a building on the undergraduate campus. As highly superior law students, we of course had no idea. As they walked away, my Chinese friend commented, “They should know better than to stop and ask a little Asian girl for directions.” To which my white friend joked, “Yeah, but at least you’re good at math.” (Followed by my Chinese friend yelling, “RACIST!” and chasing my white friend through Harvard Yard.)

There’s no point to that story, I just thought it was time for a little levity in the post. (Although John Jost does offer some fascinating insights into complementary stereotypes via system justification theory…)

Since this is a blog about mind sciences and the law, what implications does how we think about race have for law? The following is a series of anecdotes meant to offer some food for thought on the various ways that law and race intersect:

1) A white public defender that I met during the Trial Advocacy Workshop told us that she always made it a point to put her hands on her client’s shoulders (her client usually being a young black man) at some point during her opening statement, to communicate to the jury that she, as a white woman, trusted her client, and therefore they should too.

She also told us that she had to warn her clients that she was going to do that so that they wouldn’t flinch when she did it.

2) A scholar at Harvard was attempting to research whether the verdict in jury trials where the defendant was black had any statistical correlation to whether and how many African-Americans were on the jury. However, there weren’t enough black jury members in Massachusetts jury trials to provide a reliable sample.

3) The Vera Institute of Justice‘s Prosecution and Racial Justice project works with prosecutor’s offices across the country to study how prosecutorial discretion is exercised in relation to race, focusing on four key areas where prosecutors have the most discretion: initial case screening, charging, plea offers, and final disposition. Not surprisingly, the project found that prosecutors as a group often exercise their discretion in a way that has a disproportionate impact on minorities. However, as part of the demonstration project, many of these offices have implemented policies that have significantly reduced this disparity, even when these policies did not explicitly focus on race. You can find out more about Vera’s approach and findings here.

The popular image of Justice as blind seems to me to be exactly wrong. Justice is not blind because we are not blind, and it is through us that our justice system operates. Maybe if we saw Justice as mindful instead, we would have a better idea of how to go about achieving it.

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Posted in Ideology, Implicit Associations, Life, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Susan Fiske on “Inclusive Leadership, Stereotyping and the Brain”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 28, 2011

From :

[Situationist Contributor] Susan Fiske of Princeton University discusses the psychology of stereotyping in her keynote address to Columbia Business School’s research symposium, “Inclusive Leadership, Stereotyping and the Brain,” co-sponsored by the Program on Social Intelligence and the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics. Professor Fiske is introduced by Professors Malia Mason and Bruce Kogut of Columbia Business School.

To learn more about this symposium, click here.

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The Gendered Situation of Math, Humanities, and Romance

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 16, 2011

From the Boston Globe:

Psychologists have found that being stereotyped can subconsciously alter behavior. For example, subtle stereotypes of women being weaker in math and science can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, undermining women’s math and science aptitude. According to a new study, though, even supposedly innocent aspects of daily life can have a similar effect. Women who were briefly exposed to romantic images or a third-party conversation about a romantic relationship were subsequently less interested in math and science, and more interested in the humanities, than if they had been exposed to content related to intelligence or friendship. Men leaned in the opposite direction — towards math and science, and away from humanities — after being exposed to romantic content. Likewise, in a daily diary study, women who reported pursuing romantic goals on a given day were less engaged in math homework on that day or the next day.

Park, L. et al., “Effects of Everyday Romantic Goal Pursuit on Women’s Attitudes toward Math and Science,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (forthcoming).

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Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Life, Social Psychology | 1 Comment »

Anthony Greenwald on The Psychology of Blink

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 7, 2011

From

[Situationist friend] Dr. Anthony Greenwald, professor of psychology at the University of Washington, describes his research developing the method (described in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink) that reveals unconscious thought patterns that most people would rather not possess. Learn about these mental contents, as Dr. Greenwald demonstrates the method and describes how these patterns affect our behavior.

From

In this program from the University of Washington psychology department, MacArthur awardee Dr. Lisa Cooper, professor at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, describes her research on how patient race influences patient-physician communication and physician clinical decision making. She also includes her efforts to design interventions to negate these undesired racial and ethnic health care disparities.

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Posted in Education, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

David Eagleman on the Brain and the Law

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 31, 2011

From :

Dr David Eagleman considers some questions relating to law and neuroscience, challenging long-held assumptions in criminality and punishment and predicting a radical new future for the legal system.

[Eagleman's examples in the first 15 minutes will  strike long-term readers of The Situationist as non-novel.  For others, that portion of the video may be a useful primer to neurolaw.]

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Posted in Implicit Associations, Law, Neuroscience, Video | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Shared Human Experiences

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 3, 2011


Matt Motyl and his co-authors recently posted their excellent article, titled “Subtle Priming of Shared Human Experiences Eliminates Threat-Induced Negativity Toward Arabs, Immigrants, and Peace-Making” on SSRN (forthcoming  (April 20, 2011). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

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Many studies demonstrate that mortality salience can increase negativity toward out-groups but few have examined variables that mitigate this effect. The present research examined whether subtly priming people to think of human experiences shared by people from diverse cultures increases perceived similarity of members of different groups, which then reduces MS-induced negativity toward out-groups. In Study 1, exposure to pictures of people from diverse cultures engaged in common human activities non-significantly reversed the effect of MS on implicit anti-Arab prejudice. In Study 2, thinking about similarities between one’s own favorite childhood memories and those of people from other countries eliminated MS-induced explicit negative attitudes toward immigrants. In Study 3, thinking about similarities between one’s own painful childhood memories and those of people from other countries eliminated the MS-induced reduction in support for peace-making. Mediation analyzes suggest the effects were driven by perceived similarity of people across cultures. These findings suggest that priming widely shared human experiences can attenuate MS-induced inter-group conflict.

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Download the article for free here.

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Gingerism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 1, 2011

B. Greaney wrote this post for the Law & Mind Blog

Well brunettes are fine man
And blondes are fun
But when it comes to getting a dirty job done
I’ll take a red headed woman

~ Bruce Springsteen – Red Headed Woman

While my hair is now shade of auburn, I was admittedly a redhead for most of my adolescent life. With that privilege came the onslaught of nicknames: ginger, carrot top, big red, and more recently, Weasley. Then of course there was that oh-so-famous South Park episode that taught the American public that redheads simply have no souls. Pair these nicknames with expressions like “better dead than red on the head” and the Facebook event “Kick a Red Head Day,” and as you can imagine, there is plenty of material with which to tease a redhead.

To be honest, I, like many of my redheaded friends, are not offended by many of the redhead nicknames for they are often used as terms of endearment by family and friends. Not to mention, blondes do not have it too easy either—I bet every fair-haired individual has been called a “dumb blonde” at least once in his or her life.

However, the teasing of redheads goes one step further. Nowadays, almost no redhead can get by without some degree of sexualization. I can remember back in middle school when a group of boys approached me at the lunch table. One of them finally mustered up the courage to ask, “Do the curtains match the carpet?” All of the boys burst into laughter, so while I had absolutely no idea what they meant, I knew that the jokes had just entered a new terrain—the terrain of sexuality. From that point further, the nicknames expanded to fire crotch, red hair everywhere, ruby pubes, and burning bush, to name a few. I learned to laugh, like most people do, but I am still left wondering about the repercussions of it all.

In doing some research about perception of redheads on the internet, I found this description of a “Ginger”:

A Ginger is the medical term for a “person” affected by the bizarre disfiguring disease known as Gingervitus. Ghoulish symptoms include hair color ranging from an eerie light copper-tone to deep blood red, as well as a translucent to pallid skin tone. Much adversity has been attributed to gingers’ existence throughout history, and while female gingers can be considered attractive, most males of the ginger persuasion seem to resemble animated clowns… Gingers have no soul; This is the underlining cause of their Gingerness. Being tools of the devil, they are marked with the colour of their master.

While that description is obviously in jest, the line between joking and true prejudice is becoming far less clear. In the UK, for example, there are noted accounts of “gingerism” (prejudice against redheads) and “gingerphobia” (hatred towards redheads). It has been speculated that the dislike of red hair in Britain may be a result of the historical British sentiment that individuals of Irish or Celtic decent were ethnically inferior.

Some recent accounts of this prejudice include:

  • An English family that was forced to move twice after being targeted for abuse and hate crime on account of their red hair
  • In 2003, a 20 year old was stabbed in the back for “being ginger”
  • In May 2009, a British schoolboy committed suicide after being bullied for having red hair

Furthermore, in 2007, a UK woman was awarded nearly £18,000 for being sexually harassed at the workplace because of her red hair. In a news report, the woman explained,

“They asked if my head hair was the same colour as the rest of my body hair. They thought it was funny and liked to see me going red in the face with embarrassment.”

As this case shows, what is so interesting about gingerism is that it often manifests as a form of ethnic racism and sexual harassment. Yet, it is a widely accepted form of “joking” in our country, and there are few incidents I could find of reported school bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace. I believe that the reason for this is that society conditions the victims to accept it as normal and not harmful. However, what if we replaced the word “ginger” in the description above with “African American”:

An African American is the medical term for a “person” affected by the bizarre disfiguring disease known as blackivitus. Ghoulish symptoms include skin tone ranging from an eerie light copper-tone to deep brown. Much adversity has been attributed to African Americans’ existence throughout history, and while female African Americans can be considered attractive, most males of the black persuasion seem to resemble animated clowns. African Americans have no soul; This is the underlining cause of their blackness. Being tools of the devil, they are marked with the colour of their master.

If a description such as this were on the internet, I don’t think anyone would considered it a joke. Instead, most of us would agree that those were words of extreme hate. I was disgusted even typing it. So why is it that when the word “Ginger” is used instead of “African American” it all of a sudden becomes so funny?

I could not find any psychological and sociological research that focuses on the topic of gingerism. However, some concepts derived from these fields, such as ingroup/outgroup mentality, perhaps can help explain the abundance of redhead harassment. History and folklore have certainly laid the foundation of redheads being viewed in negative contexts (e.g. redheads were often portrayed as overly sexualized individuals or as witches, devil worshippers, and vampires). This perhaps primes the public to view redheads as the “outgroup,” with blondes, brunettes, and black haired individuals forming the “ingroup.” What other psychological theories do you think can help explain why redheads are harassed, especially in light of high incidence of sexual harassment?

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Posted in Implicit Associations, Life | 5 Comments »

Unconscious Racial Attitudes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 22, 2011


David Kairys posted his article, titled “Unconscious Racism” (forthcoming Temple Law Review, Vol. 83, 2011) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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This article is the introduction to a law review symposium on unconscious racism and social science and statistical evidence of bias as bases for race discrimination claims, focusing concretely on discrimination in employment and housing. The article starts with an example of unconscious racism in the bail-setting court in Philadelphia. Two drunk-driving cases about a week apart were identical in all respects except the races of the defendants, but the judge, who was not an overt or self-perceived racist, showed empathy to the white drunk driver while his reaction to the black one was dominated by fear.

Unconscious racism specifically, and the biases and motivations of alleged discriminators in general, were not of much interest in civil rights law or litigation until the Supreme Court began, in the mid-1970s, to require specific proof of purposeful discrimination to make out a constitutional violation (less-demanding proof is required for certain statutory violations). The article presents a historical perspective on the development of perceptions of racial wrongdoing in law and in society generally, starting with the relatively recently accepted understanding that racism is wrong. About 50 or 60 year ago, racism on the part of government, private institutions and individuals became socially, morally and culturally wrong. Before that, racism in words and deeds was acceptable and not unusual, if not something like the norm.

However, deep-seated notions about race from slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation were still very much alive and persist today – notions of inferiority and superiority and racially attributed, stereotyped characteristics, like intelligence, perseverance, morality, tendencies to violence and sexual promiscuity. But in the legal realm and in society generally, we wound up focusing our attention almost exclusively on overt, explicit and formal inequality. Once they were banished, we declared a pre-mature victory in the struggle for racial equality. Explicitly racist and overtly segregationist measures were banned, and racial epithets became taboo. But we left in place the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and segregation, and the remaining racism – the deep-seated, unconscious parts that do not just go away because a court declares explicit racism wrong. Progress was hindered further by a multi-faceted retrenchment by the courts. The adoption of the purposeful discrimination rule in the mid-1970s, which requires specific proof of a racial purpose or motive to establish a discrimination case, made it near impossible for minorities to win. The Supreme Court embraced a formal insensitivity to minority claims, even in circumstances that resemble the worst forms of the discrimination, segregation and disenfranchisement of African Americans that characterized the pre-civil rights past. Then a hypersensitive version of the purposeful discrimination rule was applied to invalidate good-faith affirmative and remedial action, by taking any consideration of race – even if done in good faith to open opportunities and eliminate discrimination – as sufficient proof of purposeful discrimination. Alongside and not unrelated to these legal developments, non-explicit forms of discrimination against African Americans and other minorities grew in number and significance, and became more easily non-explicit.

The use of social science and statistics to prove unconscious racism presents a possibility of dealing with at least some of these problems in the current context.

Download the article for free here.

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

Stereotype Threat

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 11, 2011

From Wikipedia:

A stereotype threat is the experience of anxiety or concern in a situation where a person has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about their social group. First developed by social psychologist Claude Steele and his colleagues, stereotype threat has been shown to reduce the performance of individuals who belong to negatively stereotyped groups. For example, stereotype threat can lower the intellectual performance of African-Americans taking the SAT, due to thestereotype that African-Americans are less intelligent than other groups.Since its introduction into the scientific literature in 1999, stereotype threat has become one of the most widely studied topics in the field of social psychology. Stereotype threat is often discussed as a potential contributing factor to long-standing racial and gender gaps in academic performance. However, stereotype threat may occur in any situation in which an individual has the potential of confirming a negative stereotype.

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The Disorderly Situation of Stereotyping

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 10, 2011

From Los Angeles Times:

Picture yourself in a well-kept room — pictures neatly hung on walls, books organized on a shelf, floors clear of junk. Now sit yourself in a room with crooked pictures, scattered books and dirty laundry on the floor. Feeling any different?

In the second room, you might be more apt to keep your distance from a person of another race, believe that Muslims are aggressive or think that gay people are creative, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

The idea, said researchers from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, is that people in messy environments tend to compensate for that disorder by categorizing people in their minds according to well-known stereotypes.

Testing the relationship between disorder and discrimination in real-life situations was no easy feat, said social psychologist Diederik Stapel, the study’s lead author. But he got lucky — the cleaners at the bustling Utrecht train station went on strike, leaving disorder in their wake.

“It looked like a terrible mess,” said study coauthor Siegwart Lindenberg, a cognitive sociologist. “Lots of paper cups, chewed-up pieces of pizza, napkins, apple cores — you name it — just lying around.”

It was the perfect setup. The two researchers canvassed the station, asking 40 travelers (all of them white) to fill out surveys about Muslims, homosexuals and Dutch people while in the messy train station. Respondents were asked to rate how accurate they thought both positive and negative stereotypes were for each group.

The researchers asked the travelers to sit down while filling out the survey, noting how far the survey-taker chose to sit from a man positioned at one end of the row. That man was either black or white.

When the strike ended a few days later, the researchers repeated the experiments in the newly tidy station.

The result: When the station was messy, travelers agreed with stereotypes — both positive and negative — about 10% more strongly. They also sat about 25% farther from a black man than they did from a white man.

To pinpoint whether it was disorder or dirtiness that heightened people’s affinity for stereotypes, the researchers went to an affluent neighborhood. They loosened pavement tiles, parked Stapel’s old red Subaru Legacy with two wheels on the sidewalk and left a bicycle lying on the ground, as if abandoned. They asked 47 passersby the same questions about Muslims, gays and Dutch people. They also asked people to donate to a “Money for Minorities” fund.

They repeated the experiment after replacing the tiles, reparking the car and righting the bicycle. Again, they found that people in the disorderly environment stereotyped more. They also gave less money to the minorities fund — 1.70 euros, on average, compared to 2.35 euros for people approached when the street was tidy.

Lab experiments further confirmed that when faced with images of chaos — be it a messy room or a random scattering of triangles and circles — volunteers rated themselves higher on a scale measuring their personal need for structure. When they were allowed to express stereotypical feelings immediately after seeing those disordered pictures, however, their “personal need for structure” scores were lower. Stereotyping satisfied that need, Stapel said.

“This need for order matters a lot more than we might have thought,” said [Situationist Contributor] Aaron Kay, a social psychologist at Duke University who was not involved in the study. Disorder pushes people to find more structure in their lives, he said, noting: “Fishermen who fish on more treacherous seas are more likely to believe in a spiritual God.”

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More.

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Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Environment, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | 1 Comment »

The Situational Effects of Iqbal

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 30, 2011

Victor Quintanilla recently posted his paper, “Beyond Common Sense: A Social-Psychological Study of Iqbal’s Effect on Claims of Race Discrimination”  on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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This article examines the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009) from a social-psychological perspective, and empirically studies Iqbal’s disparate effect on claims of race discrimination.

In Twombly and then Iqbal, the Court recast Rule 8 into a plausibility standard. Under Iqbal, federal judges must evaluate whether each complaint contains sufficient factual matter “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” When doing so, Iqbal requires judges to draw on their “judicial experience and common sense.” Courts apply Iqbal at the pleading stage, before evidence has been presented, when judging the plausibility of all claims, including claims of discrimination by members of stereotyped groups.

Decades of social-psychological research suggest that, when judges deliberate on the plausibility of discrimination claims without evidence based on “common sense,” intuitions, stereotypes and implicit associations will likely affect their judgment. This article draws on this science and performs an empirical study showing that Iqbal has significantly increased the dismissal rate of Black plaintiffs’ claims of race discrimination in the workplace.

A statistical analysis of 212 cases examined judicial decision making at the pleading stage for Black plaintiffs’ claims of race discrimination in the workplace. Three studies demonstrate that the underpinnings of Iqbal are unsound. Study 1 shows that the dismissal rate increased from 20.0% pre-Twombly to 54.6% under Iqbal for these claims. Study 2 shows that the dismissal rate increased from 32.0% to 67.35% under Iqbal for these claims when Black plaintiffs were pro se. And finally, Study 3 shows that White and Black judges are applying Iqbal differently. White judges dismiss these claims at a higher rate (57.4%) than Black judges (28.6%). Study 3 suggests that it is 2.0 times more likely that a White judge, compared to a Black judge, will dismiss these claims.

In short, Iqbal rests on an inaccurate theory of judgment and decision making. As Roscoe Pound once observed there are, “distinctions between law in the books and law in action, . . . between legal theory and judicial administration. . .” It is hoped that by introducing the science behind judgment and decision making, stereotypes, and implicit associations, and by studying human nature in law, we will broaden our knowledge of how Iqbal has affected claims of discrimination by members of stereotyped groups.

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Download the paper for free here.

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Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Law, Legal Theory, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Psychology of Inequality

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 25, 2011

Elaine McCardle wrote a terrific review of last month’s Fifth Annual PLMS Conference.  Her article is the spotlight piece on the Harvard Law School website and includes several excellent videos, photos, and links.  Here’s the story.

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While equality is a fundamental principle of American law and the bedrock of the national psyche, inequality has actually increased in the past four decades in the distribution of wealth, power, opportunity, even health. Yet the topic of inequality has received relatively little attention from legal theorists, and, for the most part, it is ignored in the basic law school curriculum.

A conference last month at HLS, “The Psychology of Inequality,” presented by the Project on Law & Mind Sciences (PLMS), stepped into that vacuum, bringing together scholars, law students, and others to examine inequality from the standpoint of the latest research in social science, health science, and mind science, and to reflect on the implications of their findings for law. The HLS Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS), together with a group of roughly 20 students, were instrumental in organizing the conference.

“Inequality matters in ways that are not commonly understood, including in how people see and make sense of the world,” saysJon Hanson, the Alfred Smart Professor of Law and Director of PLMS. “Indeed, the way people respond to instances of inequality – either by equalizing, or by rationalizing – appears to be a very significant factor in how they view markets, regulation, and many important policy and social issues. So when we engage in policy debates, mustering all our best arguments and evidence in favor of a given policy conclusion we shouldn’t be perplexed when our opponent doesn’t budge,” says Hanson. “Such recalcitrance on both sides of a discussion often reflects, not the inadequacy, but the irrelevance, of the reasons being exchanged. Behind it all may be a conflict between largely subconscious urges: some people would rather rationalize inequality while others lean toward equalizing.”

Hanson was one of more than a dozen scholars who spoke at the Feb. 26 conference, the fifth annual conference by PLMS, founded by Hanson six years ago to promote interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration between the mind sciences and the l

egal community. PMLS supports research, writing and conferences in order to dislodge the prevailing “dispositionist” approach of law – which holds that human beings, for the most part, make rational choices based on logical preferences – in favor of a “situationist approach.” Situationsim recognizes that social sciences and mind sciences, including social psychology, social cognition, and cognitive neuroscience, have repeatedly demonstrated that human behavior is influenced by countless factors ignored by the dispositionist approach, which collectively are known as “situation.”

Jaime Napier, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, presented her research on the ways in which high-status and low-status groups differ in their rationalizations of inequality. High-status people tend to place blame on individuals for their lot in life, while low-status people tend to see theirs as the natural order of things. Eric Knowles, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, discussed his theory of “malleable ideologies,” through which different groups with a same core ideology – say, “life is sacred” – can come to different outcomes on issues such as abortion or the death penalty. Adam Benforado ’05, a former student of Hanson’s and an assistant professor at the Earl Mach School of Law at Drexel University, presented on the mind-body connection in decision-making, including how seemingly innocuous environmental influences such as room temperature might have significant influence on decisions made by juries and judges. Ichiro Kawachi, a Professor of Social Epidemiology and Chair of the Social/Behavioral Sciences Department at the Harvard School of Public Health, discussed research showing that people of lower social status lead shorter, sicker lives, while other speakers discussed ways that social disparities influence health, how even young children favor high-status individuals, and the drive among humans to view the world as essentially fair.

In addition to national experts in the areas of health, psychology, and mind sciences, a number of HLS faculty contributed to the discussion from their areas of expertise in a panel discussion (see video below), including John Palfrey ’01, the Henry N. Ess III

Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources, an expert on the internet; Lucie White ’81, the Louis A. Horvitz Professor of Law, who specializes in poverty law and international economic and social rights; Robert C. Bordone ’97, the Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program; Stella Burch Elias, a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law and Andrew Woods ’07, a Climenko Fellow and Ph.D. candidate in politics at Cambridge University.

In that discussion, Hanson shared some provocative ideas. The good news, he said, is that humans have an egalitarian impulse, so that inequality causes them discomfort; some resolve the conflict by redistributing so that there is more equality, while others rationalize with reasons that explain the inequality. The bad news, Hanson added, is that it’s not terribly hard to move someone away from the equalizing impulse.

“When you experience fear and threat – personal threat, group threat, system threat – you become a hardcore dispositionist,” said Hanson, snapping his fingers, “just like that!”

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More here. Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Distribution, Education, Embodied Cognition, Events, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Legal Theory, Situationist Contributors, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

25 Mil­lion Years of Us vs. Them

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 21, 2011

From World News:

Like peo­ple, some of our mon­key cousins tend to take an “us ver­sus them” view of the world, a study has found. This sug­gests that the ten­den­cy for hu­man groups to clash may stem from a dis­tant ev­o­lu­tion­ary past, sci­en­tists say.

Yale Un­ivers­ity re­search­ers led by psy­chol­o­gist Lau­rie San­tos found in a se­ries of ex­pe­ri­ments that mon­keys treat mon­keys from out­side their groups with the same sus­pi­cion and dis­like as their hu­man cousins tend to treat out­siders. The find­ings are re­ported in the March is­sue of the Jour­nal of Per­son­al­ity and So­cial Psy­chol­o­gy.

“One of the more trou­bling as­pects of hu­man na­ture is that we eval­u­ate peo­ple dif­fer­ently de­pend­ing on wheth­er they’re a mem­ber of our ‘in­group’ or ‘out­group,’” San­tos said. “Pretty much eve­ry con­flict in hu­man his­to­ry has in­volved peo­ple mak­ing dis­tinc­tions on the ba­sis of who is a mem­ber of their own race, re­li­gion, so­cial class, and so on. The ques­tion we were in­ter­est­ed in is: Where do these types of group dis­tinc­tions come from?”

The an­swer, she adds, is that such bi­ases have ap­par­ently been shaped by 25 mil­lion years of ev­o­lu­tion and not just by hu­man cul­ture.

“The bad news is that the ten­den­cy to dis­like out­group mem­bers ap­pears to be ev­o­lu­tion­arily quite old, and there­fore may be less sim­ple to elim­i­nate than we’d like to think,” San­tos said. “The good news, though, is that even mon­keys seem to be flex­i­ble about who counts as a group mem­ber. If we hu­mans can find ways to har­ness this evolved flex­i­bil­ity, it might al­low us to be­come an even more tol­er­ant species.”

San­tos and mem­bers of her lab stud­ied rhe­sus ma­caque mon­keys liv­ing on an is­land off the coast of Puerto Rico. Mon­keys in this popula­t­ion nat­u­rally form dif­fer­ent so­cial groups based on family his­to­ry.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­ploited a well-known ten­den­cy of an­i­mals to stare long­er at new or fright­en­ing things than at fa­mil­iar or friendly things. They showed mon­keys pic­tures of oth­er mon­keys who were ei­ther in their so­cial group or mem­bers of a dif­fer­ent group. They found that mon­keys stared long­er at pic­tures of oth­er mon­keys who were out­side their group, sug­gest­ing the crea­tures spon­ta­ne­ously de­tect who is a strang­er and who is a group mem­ber.

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The Yale team’s re­sults sug­gest that the dis­tinc­tions hu­mans make be­tween “us” and “them”— and there­fore the roots of hu­man prej­u­dice—may date back at least 25 mil­lion years, when hu­mans and rhe­sus ma­caques shared a com­mon an­ces­tor.

“So­cial psy­chol­o­gists in­tro­duced the world to the idea that the im­me­di­ate situa­t­ion is hugely pow­er­ful in de­ter­min­ing be­hav­ior, even in­ter­group feel­ings,” said [Situationist Contributor] Mahza­rin Ba­naji of Har­vard Un­ivers­ity, a co-author of the pa­per. “Evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­rists have made us aware of our an­ces­tral past. In this work, we weave the two to­geth­er to show the im­por­tance of both of these in­flu­ences at work.”

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More here.

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Posted in Conflict, Evolutionary Psychology, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Belonging

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 18, 2011

From Eureka Alert:

Along with the excitement and anticipation that come with heading off to college, freshmen often find questions of belonging lurking in the background: Am I going to make friends? Are people going to respect me? Will I fit in?

Those concerns are trickier for black students and others who are often stereotyped or outnumbered on college campuses. They have good reason to wonder whether they will belong – worries that can result in lower grades and a sense of alienation.

But when black freshmen participated in an hour-long exercise designed by Stanford psychologists to show that everyone – no matter what their race or ethnicity – has a tough time adjusting to college right away, their grades went up and the minority achievement gap shrank by 52 percent. And years later, those students said they were happier and healthier than some of their black peers who didn’t take part in the exercise.

“We all experience small slights and criticisms in coming to a new school” said Greg Walton, an assistant professor of psychology whose findings are slated for publication in the March 18 edition of Science.

“Being a member of a minority group can make those events have a larger meaning,” Walton said. “When your group is in the minority, being rejected by a classmate or having a teacher say something negative to you could seem like proof that you don’t belong, and maybe evidence that your group doesn’t belong either. That feeling could lead you to work less hard and ultimately do less well.”

Walton’s paper, co-authored by psychology and education Professor Geoffrey Cohen, reports that the grade point averages of black students who participated in the exercise went up by almost a third of a grade between their sophomore and senior years.

And 22 percent of those students landed in the top 25 percent of their graduating class, while only about 5 percent of black students who didn’t participate in the exercise did that well. At the same time, half of the black test subjects who didn’t take part in the exercise were in the bottom 25 percent of their class. Only 33 percent of black students who went through the exercise did that poorly.

Walton and Cohen split about 90 second-semester freshmen at a top American university into “treatment” and “control” groups. About half of the students in each group were black; the others were white.

All the test subjects – who were unaware of the full purpose of the exercise – were told the researchers were trying to understand students’ college experiences.

Those in the treatment group read surveys and essays written by upperclassmen of different races and ethnicities describing the difficulties they had fitting in during their first year at school. The subjects in the control group read about experiences unrelated to a sense of belonging.

The upperclassmen had reported feeling intimidated by professors, being snubbed by new friends and ignored in their quest for help early in their college careers. But they all emphasized that, with time, their confidence grew, they made good friends and they developed strong relationships with professors.

“Everybody feels they are different freshman year from everybody else, when really in at least some ways we are all pretty similar,” one older student – a black woman – was quoted as saying. “Since I realized that, my experience . . . has been almost 100 percent positive.”

The test subjects in the treatment group were then asked to write essays about why they thought the older college students’ experiences changed. The researchers asked them to illustrate their essays with stories of their own lives, and then rewrite their essays into speeches that would be videotaped and could be shown to future students. The point was to have the test subjects internalize and personalize the idea that adjustments are tough for everyone.

“We didn’t want them to think of difficulties as unique to them or specific to their racial group,” Walton said of the black test subjects. “We wanted them to realize that some of those bad things that happen are just part of the transition that everyone goes through when they go off to college.”

The researchers tracked their test subjects during their sophomore, junior and senior years. While they found the social-belonging exercise had virtually no impact on white students, it had a significant impact on black students.

Along with improved GPAs by their senior year, the black students who were in the treatment group reported a greater sense of belonging compared to their peers in the control group. They also said they were happier and were less likely to spontaneously think about negative racial stereotypes. And they seemed healthier: 28 percent said they visited a doctor recently, as compared to 60 percent in the control group.

Despite the impressive outcomes, Walton and Cohen say the social-belonging exercise isn’t a quick fix to closing the academic race gap – a problem fed by a host of issues tied to diversity, socioeconomics and public policy. But their research shows how addressing feelings of belonging can improve student performance. And similar exercises may succeed in addressing concerns about belonging among other groups, like first-generation college students, immigrants and new employees.

“This intervention alone is not the answer, but we know more about what types of things help,” Cohen said. “The intervention is like turning on a light switch. It seems miraculous when the lights go on, but it all hinges on the infrastructure that’s already in place.”

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Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Education, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors | 2 Comments »

The Situation of “Natural Talent”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 6, 2011

From Harvard Gazette:

Fields such as music, math, and chess have had a predilection for a long time to seek out the youngest and most accomplished among them. According to Chia-Jung Tsay, this is because “we want to seek something that’s inherent to us. We associate accomplishment at a young age with something that comes effortlessly.” But does this desire to seek out “natural” talent eventually skew our view of what talent is?

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Tsay and her adviser, [Situationist Contributor] Mahzarin Banaji, the Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, began looking at different domains, considering which fields more strongly emphasize natural talent over hard work and experience. They found that music was the most often cited for natural talent, and business was most cited for hard work.

“Venture capitalists recognize that hard work and background knowledge in the field matter a lot,” said Tsay. “It’s the same for a doctor or a lawyer, where hard work and years of experience are what make us successful. But I think there’s a little more subjectivity in evaluation in artistic fields.”

To test this, Tsay and Banaji brought in more than 100 professionally trained musicians. Each participant was presented with two profiles of two professional musicians, and a sample musical clip to listen to from each musician. The participants were then asked questions about how talented and successful they perceived the performer to be, and how willing they might be to hire this person.

In fact, both clips were the same musical excerpt, and the profiles differed only in their mention of whether the musician had natural or learned talent. The results ultimately showed two effects: “We found even in experts and ostensibly professionally trained musicians, most of them could not tell that the recordings were the same. And on average, people seemed to prefer the ‘naturally’ talented individual, even when they said they believed hard work was more important than natural talent.”

The dramatic results suggest, according to Banaji, “a crucial disparity between what experts espouse, and perhaps even consciously believe, is the best indicator of talent, and how they actually behave.”

More.

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Posted in Implicit Associations, Life, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

SALMS Liveblogs PLMS Conference

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 27, 2011

Read James Wang’s excellent notes from yesterday’s terrific conference here.

Posted in Distribution, Events, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Law, Legal Theory, Politics | 1 Comment »

 
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