Unconscious bias

AnteaterAnteater Shipmate
edited May 11 in Purgatory
I've never thought too much about this, and even been a bit cynical that it's a piece of wokery, until I got totally caught out with two of my mates by a supposed brain teaser.

I won't keep anybody in suspense and for all I know I may be one of the few who have never heard it. Probably it's a square zero test, anyhow . . . .

So a father is in the car with his son and they have a serious accident. Both are taken to hospital very badly injured. The Surgeon looks at the youngster and says "I can't operate on him . . it's my son". Explain.

And we struggled and failed for the best part of five minutes to find the blindingly simple solution which we had to be told, namely that the surgeon was his mother. It was quite a shock to realise that between the three of us (all men, although my wife didn't get it) we all missed it because we couldn't (or at least didn't) associate the role of surgeon with a woman.

And it is true, that the thought literally never even occurred to any of the three of us. And yet I would be insulted if anybody accused me of being sexist. Or bad generally at solving brain teasers.

This type of test could help to identify bias, except that the tests would get well known, and it' be interesting to know how well known this one is. But I have now to admit that prejudices which I would consciously reject are able to influence my thinking, and in this case I found out. So now I take the whole subject more seriously. Anyone had similar experiences or views?
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Comments

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Similar experience some years back with that same story. I’m aware that there will be unconscious bias in me, just not sure how to open my eyes to it.
  • I've heard that before (I "got it right" quite quickly, as it happens.) I'll note in passing that it's also possible that the surgeon is a gay man and is also the father of the boy (this possibility had not occurred to the person leading the bias training course at which I first encountered the story).

    I am certain I have unconscious biases. I know what some of them are.

    (An example: I grew up without knowing any black people, and so as a consequence, my instincts are trained entirely on white (plus a few Chinese and Indian) faces. There's something about the faces of a minority of black people that trigger an instinctive response that the person is really pissed off. I see someone with this set of features, and my instinctive response is to think "they got out of bed the wrong side this morning - what's up with them?" and it takes a fraction of a second for conscious thought to override this response.)

    I've seen lots of people trying to measure bias with a response-timing word association thing. You get a clicker with two buttons, and push left for one kind of word, and right for the other kind of word - so you do a run-through with "push left for male or business-related words" and "push right for female and domestic-related words", and then you switch the male and female and do it again.

    And with a different group, you do the same thing, but in the other order.

    The results always seem to show people responding faster when the women and the domestic words are grouped together.

    This clearly measures something, but I've never really been persuaded that what it is measuring is unconscious bias. Do I subconsciously associate domestic kitchens more with women than with men? Sure. It's the room in the house that I most associate my mother and grandmother with; the majority of times kitchens are shown on TV or in movies, there's a woman cooking in them - it's hard to escape that kind of cultural norm being presented.

    Does that mean that I have an unconscious bias that women should be in the kitchen, or have lead responsibility for domestic issues? I don't think it does.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Alternatively, the boy is the child of a gay couple. Or, there was a divorce and the surgeon is one of the other parents of the child, There are probably other options -- a trans variation, perhaps. But I'm not sure I'd read anything deep into failing to come up with an answer in a parlor game. If you aren't pulling your weight around the house, OTOH...
  • jay_emmjay_emm Shipmate
    If you have a problem with that riddle but not with "a mum and her daughter ... Surgeon ...son", then I think that fairly conclusively shows there is (unconscious) bias.
    How that affects (other?) real world things is another matter, but it suggests that you (and me, I heard that riddle decades ago but know I still have issues) as an individual have a reasonable chance of commuting minor irritations disproportionately on them of the kind that we then complain 'pc gone mad' and deny when they complain.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    To be “woke” has become a bit of an insult, rather in the same way political correctness did.

    I draw the general lesson from the Johari window that there are things about myself I don’t know. And I do think bias is normal, and blind spots are normal. The important thing is to avoid the defensive “who me”.

    Which doesn’t mean that there cannot be bias in the minds of accusers of bias! Of course there can. I think the most important thing is to listen. Very few of us actually want to give offence.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited May 11
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    And I do think bias is normal, and blind spots are normal.
    Absolutely, and biases can be negative or positive (in the sense of not implicating negative assumptions, whether directly or by contrast to corollary assumptions, about any group). Positive biases are helpful, allowing us to make quick decisions. The problem is negative unconscious biases, which can play a role in things like hiring decisions, work assignments, etc.

  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    To be “woke” has become a bit of an insult, rather in the same way political correctness did.

    "Woke" is essentially the new phrase for "politically correct", since PC lost its rhetorical zing. It's a deliberately vague phrase that can mean anything or nothing. In general it means "not being an asshole". You can see why some people object.
  • alienfromzogalienfromzog Shipmate
    Anteater wrote: »

    So a father is in the car with his son and they have a serious accident. Both are taken to hospital very badly injured. The Surgeon looks at the youngster and says "I can't operate on him . . it's my son". Explain.

    Unconscious biases are a big thing. We all have them. But here's an interesting anecdote about this riddle:

    A few years ago I told this one to a colleague who didn't figure it out.

    Said colleague is female.

    And a surgeon.

    AFZ
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    I'm bothered by the so-called unconscious bias tests that I have taken. In my experience, they do not compensate or appear to even consider issues like handedness, eye preference, and so on. And that's bound to mess up results on a computer/mouse driven test.
  • LouiseLouise Epiphanies Host
    It's definitely a thing and one of the ways it manifests is people picking on a woman or someone from a minority and always having what they are certain is a water-tight excuse as to why that person deserved it or totally brought it on themselves.

    Then when you look at the patterns of hiring and promotion, you notice that the organisation is curiously white or men have the lion's share of the more powerful prestigious posts, and those women/minorities who got hired/promoted/accepted are rarely or never those who rock the boat for the privileged or they are those who explicitly support the more privileged against those who question them, often providing them with cover.

    What terrible bad luck they had that so many minority folk and women turned out to be such nasty useless people! It just goes to show that -whisper - promoting all these nice 'chaps like us' was really right! And so the institutional unconscious bias replicates itself...

  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Positive biases are helpful, allowing us to make quick decisions. The problem is negative unconscious biases, which can play a role in things like hiring decisions, work assignments, etc.

    Positive bias can be just as problematic. If you're making hiring decisions because someone has the right accent, or went to the right school, or you knew his dad, that's positive bias. And it's just as much a problem as actively not hiring the person with the black-sounding name etc.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Shipmate
    Unconscious biases are a big thing. We all have them. But here's an interesting anecdote about this riddle:

    A few years ago I told this one to a colleague who didn't figure it out.

    Said colleague is female.

    And a surgeon.

    Well structural biases in society shape the unconscious biases of everyone to varying degrees.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Positive biases are helpful, allowing us to make quick decisions. The problem is negative unconscious biases, which can play a role in things like hiring decisions, work assignments, etc.

    Positive bias can be just as problematic. If you're making hiring decisions because someone has the right accent, or went to the right school, or you knew his dad, that's positive bias. And it's just as much a problem as actively not hiring the person with the black-sounding name etc.
    Yes, I was in a bit of a hurry and didn’t express myself well, and I couldn’t—and still can’t—think of the right term. “Neutral bias” doesn’t seem right, but what you said in the parenthetical was aimed at what you’ve just said—by “positive” I didn’t mean a bias that favors one group, which can have the corollary negative bias, but rather a bias that’s neutral in the sense that it isn’t related to people or groups, or positive in the sense that it does no harm. I’m still not expressing it well, but I agree with you.

    I had one colleague who never looked at names or colleges when assessing who to interview for a job. She looked at degrees and experience. Her concern was that looking at names or colleges ;”(particularly HBCUSs—historically black colleges abs universities) might trigger biases.

  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I had one colleague who never looked at names or colleges when assessing who to interview for a job. She looked at degrees and experience. Her concern was that looking at names or colleges ;”(particularly HBCUSs—historically black colleges abs universities) might trigger biases.
    I believe the UK civil service has a 'name-blind' policy and no longer has name, nationality or university visible in their application process.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Unconscious biases are a big thing. We all have them. But here's an interesting anecdote about this riddle:

    A few years ago I told this one to a colleague who didn't figure it out.

    Said colleague is female.

    And a surgeon.

    Well structural biases in society shape the unconscious biases of everyone to varying degrees.

    This is true. For example, it's been shown that a black man is not immune to the general stereotypes about other black men.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    Yep I have unconscious bias here applicable to the Ship, I'm sorry to say. I'm pretty good at not assuming gender, but not perfect, and when I assume I always assume male. I am bad at assuming ethnicity unconsciously, and also socio-economic status.

    I deliberately don't beat myself up about this, beyond being disappointed at myself when I realise I have made a wrong assumption. I just try to focus on it as one aspect of Project Toad.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Positive biases are helpful, allowing us to make quick decisions. The problem is negative unconscious biases, which can play a role in things like hiring decisions, work assignments, etc.

    Positive bias can be just as problematic. If you're making hiring decisions because someone has the right accent, or went to the right school, or you knew his dad, that's positive bias. And it's just as much a problem as actively not hiring the person with the black-sounding name etc.

    I read an article by a man from the east end of the Eurasian continent who said he was harmed by the Asians are good at math "positive" bias, and detailed how. It was an eye-opener.
  • questioningquestioning Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    I read an article by a man from the east end of the Eurasian continent who said he was harmed by the Asians are good at math "positive" bias, and detailed how. It was an eye-opener.

    Yeah, I was guilty of that one as a young, first year teacher. I sure felt like shit when I recognized my prejudice and its consequences. I've now heard enough similar stories to know that it's a really common "positive" bias.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    BroJames wrote: »
    Similar experience some years back with that same story. I’m aware that there will be unconscious bias in me, just not sure how to open my eyes to it.

    While bias remains unconscious, you can't open your eyes to it. Once you've opened your eyes to it, it is no longer unconscious. It's a nice conundrum. The best you can do is to realise that you do have unconscious biases whatever they may be.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    One of the things I've noticed living in my multiracial-and-conflicted-about-it city is that pitches and volume of speech causes problems. There will be one group speaking at a particular pitch and loudness, which to them means playful banter--and then along comes another group and you can just see their shoulders hunch up, because that precise register means violence to them. And if the first group had been of their ethnicity, they would have been right.

    Case in point--when my husband and I were newly married, we could hear what sounded like angry shouting through the very thin apartment walls. We knew and liked the people next door, who were fellow students from Cuba, and we were frightened because we thought they were having a dangerous marital fight. And this went on for days.

    We finally got the courage to ask them about it, and they burst into laughter. They had been on the phone with family in Cuba. That voice register didn't mean to them what it meant to us.
  • I'm guessing that people who highlight unconscious bias are acting out their own unconscious bias. Is it possible that some wokist (who insists the next Prime Minister must be a young black trans-woman) is unconsciously biased against old white straight men?

    And what are the odds that all the earnest folk who believe they have a pathological unconscious bias do so only because they have a pathological unconscious bias towards this particular belief?

    And down the rabbit hole we go.



  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    lol

    Who insists that the next PM be a young black trans woman?

    There is no rabbit hole. There's not even a rabbit.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    It's like, one of those fake rabbits they have at the greyhound track to make the dogs run after nothing.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited May 12
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    Who insists that the next PM be a young black trans woman?

    Such arguments are more likely to be found in relation to Doctor Who and James Bond...

    EDIT: My next choice for Chief Minister is set to be between the incumbent, who is a white gay man, and the opposition leader who is an Asian woman. Assuming neither of them calls it quits (the Chief Minister possibly will), a straight white male won't be an option at the ballot box.

  • Simon Toad wrote: »
    lol

    Who insists that the next PM be a young black trans woman?

    There is no rabbit hole. There's not even a rabbit.

    Ah. I note you have a bias against insisting the next PM be a young black trans-women. You better see to that bias, mate, quick smart, or we'll be seeing to you.

    And why don't rabbits have holes, eh? Ever asked that question? All these homeless rabbits and you don't even see them! They have rights too. What sort of person are you, anyway?
  • I've come across the riddle in the opening post, and did know that the answer was supposed to be that the surgeon was a woman. Both originally and this time around I did also think, in common with others, that there were the other possible answers that included that of a step-father and a gay partnership. It rather suggests that to answer the riddle with the single answer as intended the person who dreamt it up is also unconsciously biased towards heterosexual marriage and against divorce and gay marriage

    As someone trained to work with people who are struggling with these sorts of issues, there's often a point when someone starts making jokes and trying to deflect the conversation. It is usually a way to avoid addressing their own unconscious biases by changing the conversation entirely. @PuddleglumsWager do you think you are so uncomfortable that you cannot face dealing with the subject seriously? So you feel you have to joke about it and make it impossible for anyone else to address seriously? And how do you think that is helpful to a serious conversation about a serious issue?

    The use of "woke" to dismiss arguments is another manifestation of the political correctness label. It is always a way of pushing away any attempt to understand ones own unconscious biases and putting them onto the other person.

    The problem with addressing unconscious bias is that we have look to beyond our own personal discomforts to accept that this is something we are doing. A couple of years ago I attended a series of sessions on group dynamics with the intention that I was trained to run these groups myself. When we were talking about privilege and unconscious discrimination the BAME and female members of the group were all able to discuss it openly, the person who got furiously angry and couldn't participate was one of the straight white men who could not perceive his privilege just by being a straight white man.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    I've come across the riddle in the opening post, and did know that the answer was supposed to be that the surgeon was a woman. Both originally and this time around I did also think, in common with others, that there were the other possible answers that included that of a step-father and a gay partnership. It rather suggests that to answer the riddle with the single answer as intended the person who dreamt it up is also unconsciously biased towards heterosexual marriage and against divorce and gay marriage.
    Well, as I indicated above, I first heard that riddle in the late 60s or early 70s. (I think I already knew it before “All in the Family.”) So yes, at that time there unquestionably would have been a bias toward heterosexual marriage. Divorce was just becoming more acceptable, and same-sex marriage wasn’t on many radars at all. The riddle came, I think, from the feminist movement. Given those realities of the time, it’s not surprising that other possible answers weren’t considered. Although, I think the point is not that step-father is possible, but that “mother” wasn’t something that would occur to most people.

    What may be more surprising is how the riddle hasn’t kept up with society.

  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Unconscious bias doesn't feel 'normal' if you're on the receiving end of it.

    Many of us have had experiences of being discriminated against on grounds of class, gender, disability, sexual orientation, ageism etc, but that doesn't always mean we are able to connect with what others are going through, there's no automatic 'Aha!' recognition or patterns to be observed. The ideal would be what @Curiosity killed describes, alliances formed between women and BAME representatives on shared perceptions of bias and discrimination.

    Much of what we think of as stereotyping though, is implicit in the society all around us, the films watched, the books read, the covert messages passed down through generation about us vs them. And workplace training to uncover and counter unconscious bias in terms of encouraging more diversity and inclusion simply isn't enough to ensure that prejudice is ended or employment opportunities equalised. That's because both conscious and unconscious bias favours certain groups. If white people grow up thinking of whiteness as the norm, there's an emotional disconnect from what it feels like to be outside of that norm. The most common response to questions about possible bias IME is that white people say they 'don't see race' which is code for thinking of everyone as white. Does this mean race operates in a way that is invisible except to the black people not getting job interviews or being profiled at airports or targeted for hate crimes?

    In post-apartheid South Africa, workshops have been run for years to address the problem of how whites might unlearn racism. Good will isn't enough when people have no idea what happens to for example, young black women, on a daily basis, or how being white is a kind of unearned privilege taken for granted. When white men and women in the workshops were asked to call up white employers and give their surnames as Ncobo or Mxenge, they were startled to be treated with disrespect or told they sounded 'too white and likely to be cheeky'.

    When the same white workshop attendees sent in CVs with black names or identified as black or mixed race, they often didn't hear back from prospective employers, whereas when they applied for positions calling themselves Wilson or Smith the reception was more welcoming. As black jobseekers, their qualifications were treated as suspect, they were asked if they lived in townships or a decent suburb, they had to provide health certificates in case they had notifiable diseases, the women were questioned about how many children they had and if their husbands were respectable men. If they made any typos in letters of application, it was assumed they were illiterate or from a township school and unable to write properly or drive a car or dress smartly. In addition, issues around gender and disability or age were met with a lack of sympathy. Intersectional work on bias needs more than workshops or reading courses.

    Many of these employers were multinational companies committed to a multiracial equal opportunity workplace: they were mortified when they realised they had been emailing or speaking to white people and some offered to 'redo the interviews'. Racist prejudice is a vast labyrinthine problem in churches, workplaces, any public space.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    edited May 12
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Positive biases are helpful, allowing us to make quick decisions. The problem is negative unconscious biases, which can play a role in things like hiring decisions, work assignments, etc.

    Positive bias can be just as problematic. If you're making hiring decisions because someone has the right accent, or went to the right school, or you knew his dad, that's positive bias. And it's just as much a problem as actively not hiring the person with the black-sounding name etc.
    Yes, I was in a bit of a hurry and didn’t express myself well, and I couldn’t—and still can’t—think of the right term. “Neutral bias” doesn’t seem right, but what you said in the parenthetical was aimed at what you’ve just said—by “positive” I didn’t mean a bias that favors one group, which can have the corollary negative bias, but rather a bias that’s neutral in the sense that it isn’t related to people or groups, or positive in the sense that it does no harm. I’m still not expressing it well, but I agree with you.

    I had one colleague who never looked at names or colleges when assessing who to interview for a job. She looked at degrees and experience. Her concern was that looking at names or colleges ;”(particularly HBCUSs—historically black colleges abs universities) might trigger biases.

    @Nick Tamen , this is worth looking at more closely. Certain kinds of projections around different groups or cultures can sound innocuous or even positive but the concept of 'positive bias' is full of contradictions.

    I've found the notions of tokenism and affirmative action difficult and often found in tandem. Tokenism is the symbolic effort to be more inclusive in white-dominant spaces by hiring members of under-represented groups to give an organisation credibility. Affirmative action is the intention or creating a representational or numerical parity in an organisation by appointing quotas of under-represented people to redress an imbalance. The power structures of the workplace or university or church, however, remain firmly white or male and the symbolic effort is in reality a an attempt to deflect accusations of prejudice.

    Connected to this is the active recruitment or promotion of those members of under-represented groups as 'experts' on their groups or issues. They may be hired to 'explain' the minority point of view to those who are still the membership norm and seen as skilled because they are actually from Nigeria or a crip/disability activist in a wheelchair, or a queer spokesperson representing queers in a mostly hetero organisation. This puts the token representative in what is often an intolerable position because nothing changes except the token appointment. Minority or alternative appointments are then represented in a misleadingly idealised and 'positive' light, stereotyped as one-dimensional 'just-like-us' tropes of unthreatening acceptable and even lovable allies to white people. In the film industry this 'positive' stereotype is sometimes called the 'Magical African-American Friend,' who can do no wrong and is admired by all.

    In short, I don't think there's any 'neutral bias'.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    I would have thought that unconscious bias is intrinsic to any human culture. Why should we expect it to be otherwise?
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    @Kwesi, perhaps because in a multicultural society, those biases can't be left unconscious?
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    In comments sections (eg the Guardian) my name would usually be taken as male - and I’m definitely taken more seriously than in online places where my name is clearly female.

  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    MaryLouise

    Kwesi: I would have thought that unconscious bias is intrinsic to any human culture. Why should we expect it to be otherwise?

    MaryLouise:....perhaps because in a multicultural society, those biases can't be left unconscious?

    I was just trying to point out the ubiquity of unconscious bias, good, bad, and morally irrelevant. Unconscious bias is a feature of being human at a very basic level, so that the biases mentioned here are but a few instances of a comprehensive phenomenon, and to deny such biases exist is mistaken. Unconscious bias is not an aberration, and may even be necessary for mental and social survival, otherwise we might not get through the day if we have to fundamentally examine all our actions.
    Personally, however, I am all in favour of identifying and testing such assumptions across a whole range of issues, especially where they appear dangerously false and harmful. Mind you, the practice got Socrates into an awful lot of bother.


  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    It’s interesting that this thread has thus far been all about the unconscious biases of white men. Are we the only demographic group that has them?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    No. I’m sure we’re not. But maybe, for the most part, posters here haven’t suffered the painful impact of unconscious bias from other groups.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Or maybe if we had we wouldn't feel allowed to talk about it...
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    It’s interesting that this thread has thus far been all about the unconscious biases of white men. Are we the only demographic group that has them?

    No, but we are The Man.
  • PuddleglumsWager do you think you are so uncomfortable that you cannot face dealing with the subject seriously? So you feel you have to joke about it and make it impossible for anyone else to address seriously? And how do you think that is helpful to a serious conversation about a serious issue?

    Everyone has unconscious biases. Some will be genetically hardwired. Some will be deeply imprinted. Good luck changing those.

    Some biases will benefit one group of people but not another. Some will harm one group, but not another. Some won't make a tap of different to anyone today, but a lot of different next year. Good luck sorting that out (without causing some very nasty unintended consequences.)

    What percentage of our decisions are determined by unconscious biases? Does it vary between persons? Between cultures? Is it stress related? How can anyone possibly know?

    On a scale of 1 to 10, how important are the decisions which are allegedly determined by bias? Is the effect of bias inversely proportional to the importance of a decision. If not, what is the relationship? We have no idea.

    What percentage of our biases can be reliably detected? What about all the really sneaky ones? What percentage are effectively reformed by enduring a Bias Training Seminar one long, wet and weary Wednesday afternoon? We haven't got a clue, but my guess is close to Zero.

    Do you want serious conversations about serious issues?

    Political corruption and organised crime. That's a serious issue.

    Totalitarian Chinese power. Another serious issue.

    Big Tech. Mass surveillance. Social engineering. Identity politics. Covid. Hyperinflation. Cyberwar, bio-war, nuclear war. Mass extinctions. Climate change...

    These are serious issues. Unconscious bias? Not so much.









  • It’s interesting that this thread has thus far been all about the unconscious biases of white men. Are we the only demographic group that has them?

    No, but the unconscious biases of white men have dictated the rule making and designs of most things we use, so, for example, cars are designed to fit men, not me at 5'1", so I struggle to find a car to drive comfortably. There are hundreds of like examples in Criado-Perez's Invisible Women.

    Or for another example of unconscious bias that was hilarious to see overturned. For years the researchers into prehistoric pottery were insisting that children were making the pots they found as they couldn't work out any other way that the decorative holes could be formed. Until I walked into a hands on session and was told this, to which I responded that I bet I could get my fingers into those holes. And I could get my fingers into all of the decorative holes. According to the skeleton studies, I'm around the average height of a woman in Roman times. So no, children weren't involved, women were. I had various other people called over to see this fascinating phenomena. This particular incident is written up in the literature. Those researchers had unconsciously assumed that because they couldn't get their fingers into the holes, so no adult could.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    The human brain acts on assumptions. It literally saves time.

    This is not to say we shouldn't be aware of this and the dangers it poses as well as the advantages.

    The degree to which we need to be aware of it, well there's an interesting question. I'd say there's a need to be aware of the kind of biases that are affecting people's job prospects for example, that seems a pretty serious issue.
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how important are the decisions which are allegedly determined by bias? Is the effect of bias inversely proportional to the importance of a decision. If not, what is the relationship? We have no idea.

    What percentage of our biases can be reliably detected? What about all the really sneaky ones? What percentage are effectively reformed by enduring a Bias Training Seminar one long, wet and weary Wednesday afternoon? We haven't got a clue, but my guess is close to Zero.

    Do you want serious conversations about serious issues?

    Political corruption and organised crime. That's a serious issue.

    Totalitarian Chinese power. Another serious issue.

    Big Tech. Mass surveillance. Social engineering. Identity politics. Covid. Hyperinflation. Cyberwar, bio-war, nuclear war. Mass extinctions. Climate change...

    These are serious issues. Unconscious bias? Not so much.

    So because you don't want to discuss this you have to mock it and derail the thread?

    Seriously, you do not have to post on threads that don't interest you, you can just scroll by and ignore them.

    And there's nothing to stop you starting threads on topics that interest you and you see as serious.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    There are some annoying and endangering unconscious biases around size, that's for sure. We had a six foor four pastor (250 lbs?) arrange lodging of a sex offender released from jail with an eighty year old woman about 5 foot four. Relative power and status meant she felt she couldn't say no. He obviously had never considered what it would feel like to deal eith such a person knowing you eould NOT physically resist anything he chose to do.
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    I mostly agree with Kwesi's posts here. And it is such a conplicated subject. I hope that as there is much more talk about this nowadays, it will not be pushed under the carpet ever again.

  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I had one colleague who never looked at names or colleges when assessing who to interview for a job. She looked at degrees and experience. Her concern was that looking at names or colleges ;”(particularly HBCUSs—historically black colleges abs universities) might trigger biases.

    Reminds me of the old joke: How do you know when a man went to Harvard?

    He'll tell you.
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Like: how do you identify a vegan?

  • So because you don't want to discuss this you have to mock it and derail the thread?

    What if unconscious bias theorists believe their stuff only because they're unconsciously biased toward it? What if, like everyone else on the planet, they're not being objective or reasonable? But if that is indeed the case, why should any rational person believe their biased conclusions?

    That was the point of my first post.

    My second post contains arguments, observations and questions that place unconscious bias theory somewhere between pseudoscience and psychobabble.

    It's not a serious subject. The sooner it's derailed the better.





  • chrisstileschrisstiles Shipmate

    So because you don't want to discuss this you have to mock it and derail the thread?

    What if unconscious bias theorists believe their stuff only because they're unconsciously biased toward it? What if, like everyone else on the planet, they're not being objective or reasonable?

    Well, we don't have to ask the question and guess, we can point to some of the studies that show that it exists and has real effects:

    https://bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12910-017-0179-8
    https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2006-01715-013
    https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/0002828042002561
    My second post contains arguments, observations and questions that place unconscious bias theory somewhere between pseudoscience and psychobabble.

    I don't see any arguments in your posts, and the only observations I see are highly personalised.

  • Unconscious bias is a hypothesis to explain observed phenomena - that (among many others) white men who express no obvious sexism or racism are statistically less likely to hire people of colour or women. Unconscious bias provides a plausible mechanism for why this occurs. The alternate plausible explanation is that the bias is conscious and lied about. Do you, @PuddleglumsWager , have a different hypothesis?
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Positive biases are helpful, allowing us to make quick decisions. The problem is negative unconscious biases, which can play a role in things like hiring decisions, work assignments, etc.

    Positive bias can be just as problematic. If you're making hiring decisions because someone has the right accent, or went to the right school, or you knew his dad, that's positive bias. And it's just as much a problem as actively not hiring the person with the black-sounding name etc.
    Yes, I was in a bit of a hurry and didn’t express myself well, and I couldn’t—and still can’t—think of the right term. “Neutral bias” doesn’t seem right, but what you said in the parenthetical was aimed at what you’ve just said—by “positive” I didn’t mean a bias that favors one group, which can have the corollary negative bias, but rather a bias that’s neutral in the sense that it isn’t related to people or groups, or positive in the sense that it does no harm. I’m still not expressing it well, but I agree with you.

    I had one colleague who never looked at names or colleges when assessing who to interview for a job. She looked at degrees and experience. Her concern was that looking at names or colleges ;”(particularly HBCUSs—historically black colleges abs universities) might trigger biases.

    @Nick Tamen , this is worth looking at more closely. Certain kinds of projections around different groups or cultures can sound innocuous or even positive but the concept of 'positive bias' is full of contradictions.

    . . .

    In short, I don't think there's any 'neutral bias'.
    Thank you, @MaryLouise. I largely agree with all you said. As I said, I don’t think I was expressing myself well. I was distracted by some family celebrating, and probably would have done better not to try to post on a topic like this.

    When I mentioned “neutral bias,” I was getting at the idea that we all have biases about all kinds of things, not just about people or groups of people. Some of them we’re consciously aware of, some we aren’t. Biases against certain smells or tastes, for example, can prevent us from eating foods that are harmful.

    Every class or seminar or training on unconscious bias I’ve been part of has started from the given that we all have biases about all kinds of things, and that that’s in general a neutral, and evolutionary-wise even necessary thing, because it allows for quick decision making when quick decision making may be needed.

    But the biases we have about people rooted in groups they belong to—whether allegedly “positive” (such as Asians are studious good at math) or negative (such as Black people are lazy)—are never neutral. We all have them, and the challenge is become aware of when they’re at work so that we can work to change them.

    So while I think there certainly can be neutral biases, I agree that the kind of biases that we’re talking about in this thread can never be neutral, even if ostensibly framed as “positive.” That’s what I was trying to get at, very clumsily I’m afraid.

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