Thursday, May 28, 2015

How biased are our brains?

Kristof reviews some recent work on unconscious bias, particularly racial bias.
Scholars suggest that in evolutionary times we became hard-wired to make instantaneous judgments about whether someone is in our “in group” or not — because that could be lifesaving. A child who didn’t prefer his or her own group might have been at risk of being clubbed to death...tests of unconscious biases... suggest that people turn out to have subterranean racial and gender biases that they are unaware of and even disapprove of.
I thought I would point out a recently published book, the subject of a forthcoming multiple review in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, which argues that the power of biases on perception is usually overstated, that perceptions of individuals and groups tend to be accurate. The précis of the book can be downloaded here. Book title and abstract:
Lee Jussim - Social Perception and Social Reality: Why Accuracy Dominates Bias and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (Oxford University Press, 2012)
Abstract: Social Perception and Social Reality reviews the evidence in social psychology and related fields and reaches three conclusions: 1. Although errors, biases, and self-fulfilling prophecies in person perception, are real, reliable, and occasionally quite powerful, on average, they tend to be weak, fragile and fleeting; 2. Perceptions of individuals and groups tend to be at least moderately, and often highly accurate; and 3. Conclusions based on the research on error, bias, and self-fulfilling prophecies routinely greatly overstates their power and pervasiveness, and consistently ignores evidence of accuracy, agreement, and rationality in social perception. The weight of the evidence - including some of the most classic research widely interpreted as testifying to the power of biased and self-fulfilling processes - is that interpersonal expectations related to social reality primarily because they reflect rather than cause social reality. This is the case not only of teacher expectations, but also social stereotypes, both as perceptions of groups, and as the bases of expectations regarding individuals. The time is long overdue to replace cherry-picked and unjustified stories emphasizing error, bias, the power of self-fulfilling prophecies and the inaccuracy of stereotypes with conclusions that more closely correspond to the full range of empirical findings, which includes multiple failed replications of classic expectancy studies, meta-analyses consistently demonstrating small or at best moderate expectancy effects, and high accuracy in social perception.

No comments:

Post a Comment