Jennifer L. Eberhardt is a professor of psychology at Stanford University whose research explores race, bias, and inequality; she is the author of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do.
What We Discuss with Jennifer L. Eberhardt:
- What’s going on in the brain that creates and maintains bias.
- How bias can alter what we feel and even what we see.
- How bias is contagious, and why we may have evolved bias in the first place.
- Why bias doesn’t just hurt the person who is on the receiving end of it.
- How we can spot bias in ourselves and act to mitigate it.
- And much more…
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As human beings, there are probably a number of reasons we evolved with bias coded into our DNA. Being programmed to temper our curiosity with caution when encountering people, places, and things unlike ourselves in a big and strange and unexplored world may have played a part in ensuring that the legacy of “our” people continued for successive generations. But as that world becomes smaller and more familiar, this bias that served us well in the past hinders us from progressing forward as a species. We shouldn’t be ashamed of the bias that remains a part of our programming, but we should acknowledge, understand, and strive to counter its effect. But where do we begin?
On this episode, we’re joined by Stanford University social psychologist Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt, author of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do. Here, we discuss addressing racial disparities and inequities in our neighborhoods, institutions, and criminal justice system and examine how we can alleviate our own role in perpetuating these all-too-tangible consequences of bias. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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THANKS, JENNIFER L. EBERHARDT!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD
- Jennifer L. Eberhardt | Stanford University
- Jennifer L. Eberhardt: How Racial Bias Works — and How to Disrupt It | TED2020
- Jennifer L. Eberhardt: Tackling Perception’s Effects on Behavior with “Biased” – Extended Interview | The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
- The Fusiform Face Area: A Cortical Region Specialized for the Perception of Faces | Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society
- Neural Adaptation to Faces Reveals Racial Outgroup Homogeneity Effects in Early Perception | PNAS
- Visual Perception Theory | Simply Psychology
- Michael Zárate | UTEP
- The Startling Ways Our Brains Process Racial Difference | Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD, ZORA
- NYPD’s Infamous Stop-and-Frisk Policy Found Unconstitutional | The Leadership Conference Education Fund
- The Lasting Effects of Stop-and-Frisk in Bloomberg’s New York | The New York Times
- The Numbers Don’t Speak for Themselves: Racial Disparities and the Persistence of Inequality in the Criminal Justice System | Current Directions in Psychological Science
- Kristina Olson | Twitter
- “Catching” Social Bias: Exposure to Biased Nonverbal Signals Creates Social Biases in Preschool Children | Psychological Science
- Nalini Ambady | Stanford University
- Nonverbal Communication of Race Bias on TV Influences Viewers’ Own Bias | Tufts Now
- Your Dog Really Does Want to Rescue You, Research Finds | Science Alert
- For Nextdoor, Eliminating Racism Is No Quick Fix | Wired
- Minorities Who ‘Whiten’ Job Resumes Get More Interviews | Harvard Business School Working Knowledge
- NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) | The Homeless Hub
- How Blind Auditions Help Orchestras to Eliminate Gender Bias | The Guardian
- Benoît Monin | Stanford University
- Backing Obama Gives Some Voters License to Favor Whites over Blacks, Study Shows | Stanford News
- Is This How Discrimination Ends? A New Approach to Implicit Bias | The Atlantic
- Stanford Big Data Study Finds Racial Disparities in Oakland, Calif., Police Behavior, Offers Solutions | Stanford News
- The Paradox of Implicit Bias and a Plea for a New Narrative | GWU
- How Airbnb Plans to Fix Its Racial-Bias Problem | The Washington Post
Transcript for Jennifer L. Eberhardt | The Science of Why We’re Biased (Episode 399)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Coming up on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:00:03] Well, they know that they do that, right? When they see Chinese faces or African-American faces or what have you, but they don't expect that people do that to them. So white people, for example, are really surprised when I say, "Well, I couldn't tell white faces apart." They're like, "What?" You know, they look different. And Chinese people say that to me too. They read the book and they said, "Yeah, I had the hardest time." You know, when they came to the country, when they were adults and said they had the hardest time being able to distinguish among white faces. People think their own group is just so rich and diverse, but not other groups so much.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:41] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. If you're new to the show, we have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, and psychologists, even the occasional neuroscientist.
[00:00:58] And today on the show, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt. She's a professor in the department of psychology at Stanford University. She also trains police and law enforcement agencies on bias even if we're unaware of its consequences. Today, we'll learn what's going on in the brain that creates and maintains bias, how bias can alter what we feel, and even what we see, how bias is actually contagious, and why we may have evolved bias in the first place. I do ask some uncomfortable questions during this episode. So I'm just going to throw it out there for you that some of this might sound awkward or unwoke because I'd rather get the science and Dr. Eberhardt's opinion as a qualified expert, as opposed to being fully politically correct here during the show. I hope that's all right with you. And if not, feel free to jump to another episode.
[00:01:42] Many of you ask how I managed to book all these great thinkers, authors, and celebrities every single week, and that's because of my network. I'm teaching you how to build your network for business or for personal reasons for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And most of the people you hear on this show, they're either in the course, contributing to the course or both. So come join us, and you'll be in smart company. Now, here's Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt.
[00:02:09] Yeah, when you wrote this book, the world wasn't on fire. At least not as much as it is right now.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:02:14] That's true. A lot has changed.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:17] I assume you're more busy than usual.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:02:21] That's a fair assessment. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:24] Yeah. I mean bias training right now — it's pretty hot or bias research is pretty hot right now. And I'm guessing you won't have any trouble getting funding for any of this stuff you're going to do in the next decade, probably by now.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:02:35] Yeah. You know, it's funny, I think that's true in one way, in other ways, it isn't. So I feel like people are focused on bias and issues of race and inequality and all of that. But as far as the research goes, I don't know that people always turn to research to try to understand the issues. And they're sort of looking at funding no traditional civil rights organizations as they should. They're looking at funding, community organizations — you know that kind of thing. And so they associate issues of race and inequality with civil rights. Right? But not so much science. And so that's what I'm finding.
[00:03:19] People do email me all the time that come in to give presentations — or not come in anymore, but virtually give presentations on racial bias and so forth. But I don't know, it's an interesting kind of world we're living in where a lot of people just sort of see it only as an issue of civil rights and that kind of thing. And then other people are sort of thinking about it as like, what do we do? What are the solutions to this in our workplace? And so I get a lot of those calls.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:49] Your book starts with kind of a sad story about your own son thinking that this man might rob the plane. Can you take us through that? It's a good way to start, I think.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:03:57] Yeah. So this is a story — so this took place when my son was just five years old. He was really excited about riding on this airplane with mommy. And so we get on an airplane and he's like looking all around and he's checking everybody out. And he sees this man and he says, "Hey, that guy looks like daddy." So I look at this guy and he doesn't look anything at all like my husband, like nothing at all. And so then I start to look around on the plane and I realized that this man was the only black man on the plane. And I thought, "Okay. I'm going to have to have a little talk with my son about how not all black people look alike." So I'm getting ready to have this talk. And I'm trying to think in my mind about — like adjusting the language so that he would understand.
[00:04:49] But before I started to lecture him — you know I paused and I thought, you know, children see the world in a different way from adults. Right? You know, they haven't been conditioned year after year to kind of absorb things in certain ways. And I thought, well, maybe my son is seeing something that I'm not. Like, maybe there is some resemblance there between this man and my husband that I'm just missing. So I decide I'm going to look at this stuff and I'm going to give it a shot. And I'm looking for any kind of resemblance. Like, look at his height. And there was no resemblance series about four inches shorter than my husband. Look at his weight, nothing there. Facial features, nothing. Skin color, no resemblance. And then I look at his hair and this guy has the long dreadlocks flowing down his back and my husband shaves his head. I thought, "All right," so I looked at my son, I'm like, "You're going to get the talk." So I'm all ready to give him the talk.
[00:05:46] But before I could say anything, my son, he looked up at me. He says, "I hope he doesn't rob the plane." And I said, "What?" I just couldn't believe it. And I said, "What did you say?" And he says it again. "Well, I hope that man doesn't rob the plane." I said, "You know daddy wouldn't rob a plane?" And he said, "Yeah, yeah, I know." And I said, "Well, why would you say that?" And he looked at me with this really sad face and he said, "I don't know why I said that. I don't know why I was thinking that." You know, we're living with such severe racial stratification that even a five-year-old can tell us what's supposed to happen next. This association between blackness and crime made its way into the mind of my five-year-old and it makes its way into all of our children and to all of us. And that's how I start the book out because I feel like it's a story that really underscores just how prevalent bias is and how damaging it can be.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:53] It seems almost impossible that that would have made its way into the mind of a five-year-old, but that just shows you how pervasive this — is it stereotypes or is it just, what else has kind of going on? Like, how can that happen where a kid has is black, has two black parents — you're a doctor at Stanford that studies, you know —
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:07:13] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:13] It's not like you have a bunch of family members that are affiliated with gangs and stuff, and he's getting it from them, and they live in the house. Where does it come from?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:07:23] Yeah, my husband is a law professor. So where did he get that? I mean a lot of people feel like, "Oh, well, we all get that. Our children pick this up from me." And I feel like that's true but it's not the only place they get it. I feel like there's a way in which when we say that it's a cop-out to some extent because they're getting it also from us. I mean, they're getting it from sort of watching how we react to people and how we move through the world.
[00:07:52] You know, I have another son who was in first grade, he asked me — he says, "Mommy, do you think people see black people in a different kind of way?" And I said, "Well, what do you mean?" And he says, "Well, I don't know." He says, "I just feel like there's something different." And so I asked him, I said, "Hey, well, why don't you sort of think about the last time you felt that way?" Because I needed an example. And so he was thinking about it and he said, "Yeah, well, remember last week we went to the grocery store." We went to this grocery store in a white neighborhood and he says, "I remembered being in the grocery store and a black man came in. And people kind of stayed far away from him." There was like — he's talked about it — this invisible force field being around this man because he was really into Star Wars then. And so he was like, "Yeah," he says, "When the black man got in line, his was the shortest line for a long time because he thought people didn't want to be close to him."
[00:08:48] And I said, well, what do you think that means? And he thought about it and he thought about it. And he says, "I think it's fear."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:57] Hmm.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:08:59] I mean, he didn't get that from television. Again, he got that from watching how people react to one another. He's a kid. I mean, the kids, that's what their job is to try to correlate what goes with what, and he sensed that when there was a black person in the space that it was different from a white person being in that space. And he got that sense from how we move through the world. And so they're taking hints from us about who was to be feared, who is valued, who is okay. That kind of thing. So it's us too, not just the media.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:37] I want to sort of separate racism from implicit bias because I think a lot of people will say, "Oh, well, if you have any kind of bias, it's because you have racist tendencies." But according to the book, your book, that's not true at all. I mean, it's just implicit bias is something that humans have not just racist people have.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:09:58] That's right. So we define implicit bias or some people call it unconscious bias as the beliefs and feelings we have about social groups that can influence our decision making in our actions, even when we're not aware of it. So you don't have to be conscious of it and it doesn't have to be intentional. You don't have to mean to do people harm, but you could still have this bias that actually does do harm. And that's why we're interested in studying it as a social scientist.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:28] A lot of people are down on the police right now. And I supposed we've got that in the news. The book again was written several years ago and includes the story of this police officer who accidentally profiles himself. Can you take us through that? I thought that was really interesting and says a lot about what profiling actually is when you accidentally do it to yourself.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:10:51] Yeah. So it's interesting. This was a black police officer who shared this story with me once, and this is the story about him being undercover. And so he said he would, you know, out undercover and he noticed this man in the distance. That didn't seem right. And he said the man seemed similar to him. He's black, he had the same bill. He was about the same height and so forth. But he said that this guy seemed like he was armed and dangerous. And he's also said that the guy was really disheveled. His hair was uncombed. He had on tattered clothing and it just didn't seem right. And so he wanted to keep his eye on him. And so he noticed him from a distance, this guy was up on this hill, sort of right outside of this tall office building. And so the office building had those mirror walls, like glass walls.
[00:11:46] Anyway, so he noticed a guy up there and so he starts to approach the guy. And then when he gets close to the office building the guy kind of disappears. And so this made the cop really nervous because he couldn't see him, but he thought he was dangerous. And so he's like, "Oh, where is he?" So then he notices the guy again but this time he's inside the building. And so he's looking inside the building and he noticed that when he sped up, the guy sped up. And then when the cop slowed down, this guy would slow down. And so he's like, "Okay, what's up with this guy?"
[00:12:22] So he's decided he's going to turn and confront him. So he stops in his tracks. He turns and he confronts the guy inside the building and he told me a shock went through him. Because when he looked at the guy's eyes, he realized he was looking at his own eyes. He had been profiling himself that entire time. He's looking at himself right through the mirror glass.
[00:12:49] And so it was just amazing. It really shows us how deep this is. Once again that it's not about that people, it's not about your desire to do someone harm, but you can absorb this black crime association in this way — like a cop can absorb that — even though he's black by just doing his job as a cop. So if you're focused on African-Americans, for example, as a cop, as you're trying to solve a crime, these are the people you're going to see a suspicious. And what's so amazing in this case is that he saw himself as suspicious. He was the image that fit the person who was criminal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:32] Which I guess speaks well to his ability to dress as an undercover cop because he looked the part of the criminal, even from a distance.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:13:40] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:41] That's kind of unbelievable. Because when I read this, I thought, "There's no way. That I would ever look at myself and not recognize myself or see something that wasn't there," but that's what everybody thinks about bias. Like, "Oh, I don't have that because I know about this. I read a book on bias and therefore — I had a bias training at work. Therefore, I'm not subject to this anymore."
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:14:04] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:05] "Because I know it exists." So thereby magically — but it's funny because we never really argue that with other things. We never say, "Well, I know about gravity so I can fly." We say that about bias all the time. "Oh no, I'm not racist because I know about bias and so I just mitigate that somehow magically."
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:14:22] Right, yeah, that's true. I mean, I think that's a good way of putting it. Yeah, your knowledge of bias doesn't make you immune to it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:30] Yeah. Yeah, it seems like something that evolves over time and we'll get to that. I want to talk about the other-race effect. The idea that even small children can recognize faces of their own race, better than other races. And I recognize this to some extent when I moved to California — this is not a politically correct story — but when I moved to California from New York and Michigan, I really thought that a lot of Asian people looked so similar. I didn't understand. I was like, I'm never going to get used to this. I can't really tell Vietnamese and Korean and Japanese apart. And honestly, I couldn't even tell you if I had two different Asian neighbors unless they were standing next to each other because I couldn't really — it was like my brain didn't have enough compartments.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:15:14] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:15] It was just like everybody who was Asian went into this one compartment. And I noticed that didn't happen with African-American people. So I thought for sure, well, this can't just be a biased thing because I can tell black people apart, I can't tell Asian people apart. I realize now that I grew up with a lot of African-American people at karate class and I had friends who were African-Americans, so that kind of thing was different for me. That kind of experience was different for me. And I told my mom about this and she told me that what I can only assume is kind of a horrifying story of my grandpa's funeral. I think I was three or four years old. My dad invited a lot of guys from work. He worked at Ford. And there was a guy there named Ernie who was black. And I shook his hand and I looked at my hand and Ernie said, "It doesn't come off. Don't worry." And I barely remember this. I had to wait for my mom to tell me. Apparently, it cracked everyone up at the funeral, but you know, little kids do. Just like, you're just fascinated. There's this giant guy who's probably like 6'5" or at least from my little frame, he looked enormous. And he was the only black guy that I'd ever seen in real life. I've never seen that at age three or age four or however old I was. But it was just something that clearly, again, you know, as a kid, I looked at the world in a different way.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:16:28] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:28] And now, I'm married to a woman who is ethnic Chinese, she's from Taiwan and all my in-laws and extended family are Asians. And I'm just thinking, "How did I not know that these people look different?" It's so obvious and so clear now. Like what was I thinking? But I wasn't four, I was 34, right? Like how did I not get it? I don't know.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:16:48] It's just about exposure like you said. I had a similar experience when I was a kid. I wasn't as young as you but when I was 12, my parents decided we were going to move from an all-black neighborhood to an all-white neighborhood. I was nervous about moving to the neighborhood and about how I would be received and whether I would be accepted, whether I'd have friends and all of that. You know it is interesting because the kids there were all friendly, but I still had problems making friends because I could not tell their faces apart. So my brain didn't have practice at recognizing white faces because everybody in my life up until that point was African-American. And so it took my brain a while to kind of catch up to the new experience I was having. After being presented with one white face after another, my brain slowly was able to distinguish among them, but it took practice.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:46] Yeah, I can imagine. I can imagine. It seems weird because America is so diverse. And yet here we are like not able to tell our Asian neighbors apart or not able to tell our white friends apart in our neighborhood that we go to school with for the first three weeks or however long it takes to sort of acclimate. Do we know, by the way, how long that familiarity takes? Do you have any data on that?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:18:06] Yeah, that's really interesting. So there's research showing that infants, so babies as young as three months old will show a preference for looking at faces of their own race. So it starts really early and it's also partly a function of the fact that we're living in segregated spaces. So maybe — I don't know if you have any children.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:28] I do. I have one and he's mixed. So I'm like, "Does he think I look more like him or does he think his mom does? I don't know."
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:18:34] So again, it's a matter of exposure. It's a matter of experience. And so it's like our brains are very adaptable. We're responding to what is in front of us and sort of what our experiences like. Your child may not show this kind of effect, right? Like your child might be equally able to distinguish white faces and Chinese faces, for example.
[00:19:00] For a lot of people — you know, we're growing up in homes that are segregated racially. Oftentimes we're growing up in neighborhoods that are segregated racially. And so you don't get that exposure. And so your brain becomes better and better at distinguishing among faces that it's presented with and then worse and worse at being able to distinguish among faces that, you know, it's not presented with. And so that's the basic finding there.
[00:19:29] You know we've done neural imaging studies on this as well. Actually, I work with a team of neuroscientists at Stanford who was interested in memory. And so what we did is we put people in an imaging scanner and we showed them black and white faces. And we had a black and white study participants in the scanner. We were interested in how the brain would respond when they were looking at faces of their own race versus faces of a different race. And there's this area of the brain called the fusiform face area, or they call it the FFA. And so that's where we were looking, in particular, to see if there was a difference and there was. So the fusiform face area was much more active when people were watching or looking at faces of their own race than if they were looking at faces of a different race.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:17] So our brains are better at recognizing familiarity. Do we know why we might've evolved this? Because it seems just not important on its face to be able to see — I mean, is it just so kids can recognize their parents? Like, what is this for?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:20:30] Well, you know, it seems like race wouldn't be important, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:34] Right.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:20:34] So that's why — you know when we first started this study, a lot of neuroscientists thought we wouldn't find anything because they felt like face is a face and the brain just evolved to recognize faces because faces are important to us. We want to be able to distinguish friend from foe. Like someone who was going to do us harm versus someone who we were familiar with and so forth.
[00:20:55] And so, as a matter of survival, to some extent, we have to recognize faces, but they didn't think race had anything to do with that. But it turns out that it did. And that's because it's not just about evolution, it's also about exposure. It's also about experience. So there's this neuro-plasticity that the brain has. We have this ability to adapt to our circumstances. If we're growing up in the world or in an environment where race is important, our brain kind of adapts to that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:26] It also works with children. I noticed that in the book, people who work with children can tell babies apart more easily.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:21:32] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:32] When I had my son, Jayden, unsurprisingly, he looked like an old Chinese man because he's a newborn and he's half Asian. Then I noticed that all my friends' kids, regardless of race, just looked like different shades of old Chinese man, kind of. And I felt like, "Oh my gosh, this would be really easy to mess up." Like if you have three people who are of the same or similar skin tone, and they have kids in that nursery. I mean, your guess is as good as mine. I wouldn't have been able to tell my own son apart from those newborn kids at first.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:22:00] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:01] But nurses sort of — I won't say evolve, I guess they develop the ability to really tell baby features apart. I guess they're looking at different things.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:22:07] Right. Yeah. You can become an expert at whatever it is that you're exposed to. So they're exposed to the infants' faces. They can tell those faces apart over time. They've even done this with teachers who are teaching in grade school. Those teachers are able to tell eight-year-old faces apart from one another more so than college kids are, who don't have kids.
[00:22:30] I think a lot of times people think about, well, if it's in the brain, that means it's stable and it's something that's evolved to be that way. That it's permanent but it's not. The brain is always evolving in a way. It's always responding to you sort of what it's confronted with.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:45] And blind people's brains, you've noted repurpose and I put that in air quotes, right? They've repurposed their visual cortex. And we've seen brain data from — is it London cabbies when they learned the knowledge of all the streets, their brains visibly changed within just a few years. And I know we've actually got some London cabbies that listen to this podcast all the time.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:23:05] Oh, really?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:06] Shout out to the London cabbies who never get lost. We got to put you guys in a brain scanner next time when I come to town.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:23:11] The problem though now is that with all the technology, they don't have to memorize 25,000 streets anymore. So their brains probably don't change, even though they're still in the same profession. So the requirements are different.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:24] Yeah. This also kind of goes — there's a flip side to this, and I thought this was kind of fascinating. This gang of purse-snatchers. Can you take us through this? This is weirdly like a gang of thieves using neuroscience somehow to get away with crime, which I'm guessing that was a little bit more of an accident, but I thought that was fascinating.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:23:41] Yeah, it was really interesting. So this was a time when I was in Oakland, California. I was there to try to help the police department with their reform efforts. And so I learned about this crime spree that was going on in Chinatown, where it was basically black teenagers, young black men who were going into Chinatown and they were snatching the purses of middle-aged Chinese women. And when they were asked after being caught — like why they would focus on Chinatown and why those women — they would say, "Well, because the Chinese people can't tell the brothers apart basically." They knew that if they went there, they wouldn't be able to ID them. And if they couldn't ID them able to do this and not get caught.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:29] And they eventually — obviously, they get caught because we have video cameras now because it's not 1950. And like, you can just show the person is there. But I thought that was really it — this is clearly like kind of the same thing that was happening with me. Like, "Oh, I don't. Who was it? I don't know. It was the dark skin guy." Like, "Okay. There are three black men in the lineup that look nothing — one has dreads and one is bald. Which one was it?" "I can't tell. Um, so — "
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:24:57] That's so funny because that was happening to me when I moved to that neighborhood when I was 12. And I could not tell the difference between someone who had blonde hair and someone who had brown hair, blue eyes versus brown eyes. I just wasn't really focused on those kinds of features to figure out who was who. And so it took me some time to even notice that that was a relevant feature to be able to distinguish among faces.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:25] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt. We'll be right back.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:51] And now back to Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:27:57] There was a study that you mentioned in the book about how our — I'm going to phrase this in a weird way — but our brain essentially sort of dulls our response after we see something over and over. Can you take us through this? I want to know what this tells us about categories in our brains and what this might contribute to racism or racist attitudes.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:28:13] Yeah. So this was another neuroimaging study we did where we showed people faces in a scanner. So there's this concept called repetition suppression where, again like you said, the brain — there's less of a response to stimuli that the brain has sort of seen over and over and over again. And so what we did is that we show people the faces of people who were white and black, and then some of the faces were repeated and some weren't. And what we found is that if you show white people different white faces, you'll get a pretty strong response because it's a different white face. But if you show them the same white face over and over and over again, then you start to see that the response is that strong to that repeated showing up the same face.
[00:29:00] But what we found with black faces is when you show white people black faces, you get that dulling of the response, even when it's not the same face that you're seeing. So it's almost as though, even though they're different faces, they're different people that you're seeing each time, it's almost as though, you're showing a black face and then another black face and another black face and another black face. So it's almost as sort of seeing the same stimulus, even though it's not because it's being categorized as black and you're sort of thinking about the face as black and you're getting another one and another one and another one, basically. So the idea here is we were seeing some evidence that black faces sort of seen categorically by people who were outside that group, in this case, white participants. Whereas same-race faces are seeing — they're individuated, right? You're able to treat one different from the other and that's reflected and how responsive your brain is to them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:59] That's interesting. So we just kind of lump other races together in our brains and go, "Oh, well, these people are all the same." It's unconscious, right? It's our brain just doing it. Like, all right. Well, all these people go in one pile, but everybody who kind of looks like me, it goes in a hundred thousand separate little or 200 separate little piles.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:30:16] That's right. I mean, you'll get this too. People are so — they know that they do that, right? When they see Chinese faces or African-American faces or what have you. But they don't expect that people do that to them. So white people, for example, are really surprised when I say, "Well, I can tell white faces apart." They're like, "What?" you know, I can't —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:37] But they're so different.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:30:38] Yeah, they are so different, and Chinese people will say that to me too. They read the book and they said, "Yeah, I had the hardest time." You know, when they came to the country, when they were adults and said they had the hardest time being able to distinguish among white faces. People think their own group is just the rich and diverse, but not other groups so much
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:56] It's comical in a way. It's a little sad, of course, but it's also comical to think that like, "No, it's minorities that look all the same. White people, we are very — we're so diverse," and it's like, "Well, you know, come on, man." It's just ridiculous to think that. What really surprised me was that knowing someone's race as a category actually affected how we see their facial features. So this computer simulation with different haircuts that was mind-blowing that we could actually — well, tell us what this means because I don't want to put conclusions on your work especially if I don't fully understand it.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:31:28] Actually, this wasn't a study that was conducted by another social psychologist, Michael Zárate and he was interested in — we've been talking a lot about bottom-up effects of the other-race effect. What I mean by bottom-up is just like experienced driven effects. But he was interested in the role of top-down processing. And so we're talking about the role that categorization can play and how we perceive faces. What he did was he showed people the same face and this is what Latino participants. So either they saw the face and the face had a haircut that was like stereotypically Latino at the time. I think this was in the '80s when they did this study. Or it was the same face, but the face had a haircut that was stereotypically African-American. And so they were the face as either a face of a black person or a face of a Latino.
[00:32:22] And they found that when they perceive the face as Latino, they could distinguish it a lot better when they perceived that same face as African-American because when he's African-American, he's an out-group member. And so you're not processing the face in the same way. You're not thinking about it in the same way. They're not these folks who kind of fine-grain distinctions really that we're making. So that's what they found. So it's not just our experience, it's also how we're taught to categorize people when they look people in the same group.
[00:32:54] You know, I had a friend when I was in college who had a sister who passed for white. They were sisters, but my friend, she looked African-American, but the sister looked white actually, but it was interesting because they had some of the same features. So even though the sister had blonde hair, she had the same forehead as my friend. She had the same eyes. She had the same lips. She had the same expression. She would make facial expressions, but no one ever confused them for sisters because they categorize one as white and the other as black.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:29] Wow. So in our minds, these people were in completely different buckets, even though there were objectively a lot of similarities.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:33:37] A lot of similarities. And so the sister who is passing was never found out, even though people would meet her sister. "Oh, I thought your sister's name was Marshall." "Oh, that's interesting. She has the same name as your sister." Not realize that the black sister was the sister.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:54] That's incredible. It also seems to confuse the way that we interpret emotion. So we might see — it causes confusion in perception, the way our brain creates stereotypes. Take us through this. Because I can see this causing a lot of issues with policing and just reinforcing the stereotypes that people already have.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:34:11] Yeah. So they've done studies. Well, one they've done studies showing that just like you have this other-race effect that we're talking about, people are less able to meet the expressions of people who are not in their race. So that causes a problem. So that's number one. But then the second issue is that there are all these other studies showing that people are faster to read anger or aggression right into the faces of African-Americans than they are into the faces of other people.
[00:34:41] So they've done studies where they will take a face — it's the same face, right? And they will gradually change the expression on the face. These are faces that people are watching on a computer screen and they see this face and it might start out really angry and then it goes to neutral, right? And so they have to stay the moment at which that face goes to neutral. And they find that if it's a black face, people see the anger for longer. So it's like anger, it sort of continues to bleed over even when the expression has gone to neutral. So it's just really interesting. They've done this also with biracial faces that they tell people this person is either black or white and they find with the same face, if you're told that that face or that person is black, the anger will linger longer on the face even as the expression is changing to neutral.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:34] Is it just faces or is it also their body movements? Like if I'm wildly gesticulating, but I'm a nerdy white dude, am I going to be perceived in the same way as if I'm wildly gesticulating, but I'm the same build, same height, but I'm African-American — is that going to be judged as something else?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:35:50] Yeah. That's a great question. We're actually trying to do research on that question right now, but if you looked out in the real world, there's some evidence for that. So for example —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:00] Yeah. That's where I got the question, right? Yeah. Like, "Hey, how did you possibly think that this was an aggressive motion?" "Oh, because this person is a different race than you."
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:36:10] Right. And we find like the NYPD, for example, when they were at the height of the stop-and-frisk practices, they're in New York, they were stopping lots and lots of African-Americans and Latinos. And one of the reasons they were stopping them was for furtive movement. Well, first of all, they didn't know what they meant by furtive movement. There was no agreed-upon definition of what furtive movement was in a department at that point. And so that left it to individual officers to decide for themselves what was furtive, what was suspicious movement. And so different officers could do that in different ways.
[00:36:47] What we were interested in is the role that race played in what they thought of as furtive. And we found that when you just look at black and white people who were stopped for furtive movement, 88 percent of them were African-Americans and 12 percent were white. And then when we look at how they were treated after being stopped for furtive movement, we found that African-Americans were more likely to be frisk. They were more likely to be subjected to physical force, even though they were no more likely to have a weapon. And in fact, only one percent of the people who were stopped for furtive movement actually had a weapon during the height of stop and frisk. And so that's what we found.
[00:37:27] It's interesting because even though this is the case, you know, this is a pretty low hit rate one percent, right? But there was a lot of support for stop and frisk in New York at that time. And when we looked at why there was that much support, what we found that the more people were sort of reminded of racial disparities in the criminal justice system. So for example, the more black they thought the prison population was the more supportive they were of aggressive stop-and-frisk practices at the time. And so there was a way in which disparities in the criminal justice system for some people, you think maybe there's something going on with the system for other people. You know, if you sort of talk to them about disparities in the system, they see it as sort of evidence or justification that these people are doing wrong. Therefore, they need to be stopped and so that's what we found.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:20] That's the — what is it? The vicious cycle, that's the term I'm looking for, right? Because. If we have bias and then we constantly look to reinforce that bias, but then we also don't see that bias. Well, then our bias just gets stronger and stronger and stronger. And we don't think, "Jeez, my subconscious or unconscious bias is really getting stronger due to all this evidence that I'm looking for unconsciously." We just think, "Well, clearly what I'm perceiving is the truth. What else could there be?" And even if you sought to fight that in yourself, all your colleagues would be like, "What are you doing?" Thinking that maybe this isn't furtive gestures but you're just succumbing to your unconscious bias. The one time you get stabbed by somebody, they're going to be like, "You're an idiot. You brought this on yourself. What are you thinking?" And of course, even in your own mind, you're going to go, "Okay to hell with this. I'm not getting stabbed again because of my attempt to be less biased. That's not going to work. I wonder if bias is contagious, you know, can I get bias from somebody else?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:39:13] I'm sorry, it's funny. You can cut this out as we're talking. I'm looking out my window and somebody just came up and stole my husband's bicycle.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:24] Do you want to go handle that? Do you want to call the police? I got time if you want to like —
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:39:29] Can you cut that out?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:31] Yeah. Of course. What did he look like? Yeah, we'll cut it out.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:39:35] He was not African-American.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:37] I'm just making sure you're not biased. No problem. Let me know if you need to do anything else. I'm happy to pause. That's weird. That's never happened. I've been doing this for 14 years. No one has witnessed a crime during the show.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:39:51] Okay. That's okay. I think my husband can handle it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:54] Yeah.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:39:55] Okay. I'm just telling him what he had.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:56] Yeah, of course, no, no, no. Take your time. Let me know when you're ready and we'll jump right back into it.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:40:00] Okay. That's cool. Sorry.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:04] So what I had been asking is if, is bias contagious, can I catch it from other people? Can I absorb it by working with other people? Because that would explain bias and families or, you know, racism and stereotypes in families and organizations. Such as, well, any organization, really? It doesn't have to be the police, right? Is bias contagious or does it not quite work that way?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:40:24] Well, yeah, actually some people believe it is. And there's some research to suggest that it is as well. So for example, Kristina Olson and colleagues, they actually did this with really young children where they exposed them to a videotape of someone who was treating another person either poorly by kind of staring at them and leaning away from them and that kind of thing. Or they were treating them really positively. So they were leaning forward and they were smiling and they handed them a toy and all of this. So they had preschoolers watch this videotape of all this going on. And these were like three-year-olds. They found that when they asked the three-year-olds, which person they liked, they liked the person who was treated well, but disliked the person who was not treated well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:11] Oh wow.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:41:12] So when they were asked, "Who would you want to share a toy with?" It was the person who was liked and not the person who was disliked. So they watched this clip for seconds, right. And already they could pick up on what was not just what was happening, but they made an assessment about it. So if you're treated badly, that means you are a bad person. If you're treated well, that means you're a good person. And so it's interesting. They were blaming the target of the bias, you know, for the bias rather than the holder of the bias. And so that's one study where you could see how that's contagious. If you're watching as a kid and you're learning who is nice and who is good and who to approach and so forth based on how you're treated by others, the bias of others.
[00:41:54] There's also some other research, Nalini Ambady and colleagues, where they were looking at this in adults. And they were interested in the role of media as being a way that bias can be contagious. So what they did was they looked at popular television shows that people watch. They don't look at shows where, you know, black people were in negative positions, right? Or positions where they wrote the criminal or something like that. They looked at shows where African-Americans were represented in positive ways, where they had roles as strong characters, like doctors and lawyers, and so forth. And what they did was they looked at how that black actor was being treated by other people on the set.
[00:42:38] And so again, this is like nonverbal leakage, and so they weren't looking at blatant and stuff, they were just looking at the kinds of expressions that people had when they were watching that black actor or again, their body movement or whether they were leaning in or not, that kind of thing. And they found that when these actors — and so these are other cast members, right? When they were watching a black actor, they were treating them in a more negative way in terms of their nonverbal expressions and so forth. Not only did they find that, but they also found that the people who are watching that show, especially people who watch the show regularly and so forth, they caught the biases that were being admitted by the other cast members. So just watching the show led you to an increase in your own implicit or unconscious bias. So that's what they found.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:28] Wow. It seems like a lot of this is survival mechanisms gone wrong, right? Little kids or adults. If I see somebody being treated negatively, that might help me not become a victim of that person or suffer at the hands of that person. But if we're also then putting people into buckets in a totally arbitrary/unfair way, based on just a few qualities that they have, because we're unfamiliar with them, then you have this kind of one, two punch of, "Well, I'm just going to paint everyone with the same brush. Oh, and I'm also painting this one person or treating this one person negatively. Therefore I'm going to treat everybody who kind of looks like that person negatively as well." That sounds like a recipe for racism, kind of just right there.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:44:10] Yeah. I mean, and you could imagine what kind of harm that does. And, and it's not even something that's limited to people, dogs as well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:18] Really? Dogs are also racist. That's weird.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:44:21] Well, you can imagine how gods could become racist. For example, if there's not a lot of systematic, like rigorous research on racism with dogs but you do see that dogs pay attention to what their owners do. And so they had a study where they brought the owner of the dog and the dog together and sent them to the laboratory and then someone came into the lab. And the dog owner was told to take either three steps back or to take three steps forward. And they found that when the dog owner took this many steps back, the dog became really agitated. They’re looking back and forth between the owner and this person who came into the room. They were worried they were barking. So they were worried that the owner was in harm's way. And so, you think like so if a dog can pick this up, like the nonverbals and all of this, you can certainly imagine that other people can pick up the nonverbals of people who are responding, maybe negatively to people because of their race.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:20] Sure. No, that makes sense. I used to hear like, "Oh, my dog is really good at reading people." And then you also hear like, "Oh, this dog or that dog is a little bit racist." And now when someone's like, "Oh, my dog is afraid of black people." I'm always like, "Uh-huh, it's your golden retriever that's afraid of black people. Is it?" That checks out, you know? And it's weird because people don't even see it, but that goes back to bias, right? They go, you know, this dog is a little bit afraid of so-and-so or. Or they're afraid of strangers. And I'm just thinking because when I walk up to dogs, they usually — like if I'm outside and I see my neighbor’s dog, they're so friendly. "How come it's just your dog? That seems to have a problem with certain people, but no, it gets along great with your family or your extended family that they've seen twice in their life." So it just doesn't make sense. So that data, that shines a bright light on a lot of what's going on. I never knew it was the two steps forward or the stepping forward stepping backward. But that makes sense because I was thinking, "The dog can't really see my face. Like what is he reacting to?" And it's proximity.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:46:16] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:1] Interesting. How do we mitigate bias? Because I know you do a lot of police training or organizational training and things like that. But does training mitigate bias or does it just build awareness to it? Because as you know better than anyone, these two things are not the same. We can't just know we have bias and then magically not be affected by it. Kind of like what I said about gravity earlier in the show.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:46:35] Right. That's true. I think a lot of people feel like if you just bring in someone to inform people about bias, that bias can go away because now everybody understands what it is. But yeah, like you said, you know, you need to do more than that. The other issue with the bias training is that they will bring people in, but they won't evaluate the training. Like in police departments, for example, you know, this is a pretty common thing. Also, community members will push departments to offer this training to officers because they're worried about bias. They're worried about how they're being treated and so forth. Very rarely is it evaluated and then to the extent that it is evaluated, it's, "Did you like the training?" Not the metrics —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:16] Useful.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:47:17] — you know that is the most helpful or useful metric. It's certainly not the metric that people have in mind when they're pushing for bias training. They want there to be biased training because they want to improve police-community interactions because they want more just policing and rarely do you have your bias training that is evaluated using those metrics.
[00:47:37] And so I feel like we need to change that because — one thing, you know, people will say, well, it can't harm people to have this bias training that they did. So now they have information that they didn't have, even if it doesn't change their biases. In some ways, you know, it might because if you're doing that, instead of doing other things that actually could move the needle, then that's a problem. It could make it less likely that you're going to look at making changes to the culture in that police department. It could make it less likely that you're going to re-examine enforcement practices. It could make it less likely that you may examine the policies that you have. So it could, in some way, actually lead to a problem, especially if you're only doing this bias training in isolation, and then not even looking at how that training actually really changes outcomes, the outcomes that you care about.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:32] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt. We'll be right back.
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[00:51:40] There are a lot of studies that you wrote about in the book, Biased, that were really shocking and kind of bring into question the way that we even look at our own perception, our own brains, right? There was one that said — and I'm paraphrasing here, obviously your conclusion, but studies rate people's perception of — let's say African American people as taller and heavier. And I had to read that a few times because I thought so on my literally seeing people as larger and heavier than they actually are. Like, how is that possible that what I am seeing — and we've studied this on the show before discussed this on the show about how our eyes are bringing in photons, and then our brain does the rest of it and calculates the image. So this bias is it's not just like a background program, that's running in effect. Some of our thoughts, I'm literally seeing, hearing, feeling whatever different things — it's almost like it gets between my eye and the rest of my thinking brain and just messes with the data.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:52:35] Right. And it's similar to what we were talking about with the expressions, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:39] Right.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:52:39] You see a black face, you're seeing it as angrier for longer. See a black person, you're seeing that body as stronger, as more muscular, as heavier. It's more threatening really. So researchers have found that. They also have found that it actually affects your endorsement of use of force against the black person. So people who are thinking that black bodies are heavier and stronger and more muscular feel like it's more justified. For example, for officers to use more extreme force against black people.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:11] Right. Like, "I feared for my life. He is so much bigger than me." "He's three and a half pounds heavier. And he's a centimeter shorter than you. Like what are you talking about?" But if we actually see the person as, "He was 6'5" and 280." It's like, "Well, wait a minute." And it wasn't just a small amount. What else really kind of was scary was you wrote in part, "When we see black faces, we're more likely to quickly see a gun or a weapon, even if it's not there."
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:53:35] Yeah, right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:36] And conversely, when we see white faces, we're slower to see a gun, even if it is there. So we see people of different races as armed when they're not. And people who we assume are safer races as safer even if objectively they're not. Was this study, like, okay, we have all the time in the world, we can see that this is a white guy with a gun. And we have all the time in the world, we can see this as an African-American male who is unarmed, but in a short amount of time, the data just gets all shook up in a tumbler and then thrown out. It's crazy to me, it just messes with our perceptions, literally.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:54:07] Yeah. Especially like you said, when you don't have time to respond, you're forced to rely on these well-practiced associations. And so if you associate black people with crime, that's at the ready, right? And so you're going to say, "Okay, yeah, this person has a gun." So they've done this with these shoot-don't-shoot simulations. And so they are quicker to respond, shoot a black person with a gun than a white person with a gun. But it's only when you're pushed to respond quickly. So you're using your intuition. You know, what's happening and that's driving your response rather than sort of pausing and sort of looking just to see what's happening. But sometimes people have to make split-second decisions and that's why their work is relevant.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:48] To undo that must be — I mean, that's the science magic wand that you were probably looking for, right? Where we can just be objective about what we see you have to take — like, I don't know, a few hundred thousand years of evolution out of the equation and train people to do it really, really, really fast. I don't know how you do that. I also found it surprising that even homes and real estate seemingly are not exempt from prejudice. Obviously, a house can't be racist. But tell me about how bias affects real estate and homes. I've never thought about this. Of course, this is your line of work, but this was shocking and disappointing as well, right?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:55:24] Yeah. Well, people have — social scientists, especially sociologists have been studying this for a long time now, showing that homes in black neighborhoods are worth less than comparable homes in white neighborhoods, that kind of thing. But what we wanted to do is to look at the identical house and only change the owner to see if the same house people are seeing it differently and evaluating it in a different way. And so we ran a controlled study on this. We actually used house hunters on Craigslist. And so we told these house hunters that we had the study, we were interested in how people evaluate homes online. And so they agreed to do this study. The house that we showed them was a house that was owned by the Thomas family. And we changed the Thomas family so that they were depicted as either black or as white. And they were standing in the living room of the house. And so they are seeing these pictures of the home. But they see the Thomas family standing in the living room and that family's black or that family's white. All of the other pictures are identical. So they're seeing the outside of the home. They're seeing the bathroom, the kitchen, the bedroom, the backyard, everything is the same.
[00:56:35] And then we asked people to evaluate the house. And we find that they evaluate the house more negatively when there's a black family standing in it. So they're less interested in the house. They even say that more would need to be done to the house, to spruce it up, to get it ready for the market if a black family is standing in it than if a white family is standing in that same house. So that's what we found. And the thing that was interesting, I should say about this is that we did lots of different versions of this study, but for this particular version, you know, we're finding that seeing a single black family leads you to imagine the whole neighborhood in a different way. So exposure to that black Thomas family led you to imagine a neighborhood that was more run down that was more crime-ridden. That had poorer schools. That had the shopping district, there would be less opportunities there, fewer banking institutions, all of that, but we didn't give them any information at all about the surrounding neighborhoods. They only had these pictures of the house and the family. And just seeing that family brought online — like this whole vision about where the house was located and what that neighborhood must look like. They said they would feel less attached to that neighborhood that they didn't even see, just because that black family was standing at it.
[00:57:56] And we had another version where we just told them that there were black people who lived in the neighborhood. They would pay $20,000 less for that house if they knew there were black people around than if they knew there were white people around. Yeah. It's pretty deep, right? For us, it's almost interesting because it shows that stereotyping goes beyond just your beliefs and your attitudes about people. It can still affect the things that those people are connected to or the homes that they're connected to. So it makes it so that it's a much broader phenomenon. It's not only about people, but it can come online and all these other ways and can influence where people live. It could also influence the wealth of those families because wherever they live, people don't want to pay as much for it just because they lived in that house. You can imagine a lot of it is there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:48] Yeah, of course, this sort of carries over into what you called whitening resumes as well. Right? Like there's bias even with resumes and getting jobs. Just briefly, can you kind of discuss that? I think a lot of people — sure, if you see a really, obviously, ethnic-sounding name, you can tell, but what else is going on when I'm looking at a resume? Like how is bias coming through something like that?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [00:59:10] Yeah. So this was researched that was conducted by Sonia Kang and colleagues. So they are organizational behavior professors. I think she's at the University of Toronto now. What they did was they basically interviewed lots of people on college campuses and these were mostly elite college campuses. They discovered that there was a real worry that these college graduating seniors had about bias in the labor market. And so that led them to what they call a Whitening the Resume. So Jamal Anthony Smith on the resume might be Jay Anthony Smith. You change the name so that it's kind of downplaying your identity. They found this, not just with African-Americans, but also with Asian-Americans. And in fact, Asian-Americans say we're more likely to use American sounding nicknames. They were also told by career counselors and so forth that they would get more callbacks if they did that. Then if they used their Chinese birth name, for example.
[01:00:10] The kicker was that they actually developed like all of these resumes and whitened some of them and left others unwhitened and they sent them out to employers. They found that the hunches that these college students had — actually, they were correct. Whitened resumes did indeed receive more calls backs from employers than unwhitened resumes. And this was the case, even for people who needed these companies, who said they cared about diversity and inclusion, there was a difference there.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:39] We care about diversity inclusion, especially if it's somebody else's problem, right? Like somebody else has to deal with it or like — "Maybe in your company." "Not in my department." Yeah, there's a lot of that. What do they call that? Not in my backyard kind of situation. That's not exactly the same thing. Have you heard this before?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:00:55] I don't know if I'm following you exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:58] When people in San Francisco say, "I really care about homelessness, we really got to clean up the tenderloin." And it's like, "Yeah, why don't we take some of these folks and move them over to Knob Hill." And they're like, "Well, nah, not here. How about some other neighborhoods?" They call them NIMBYs, not in my backyard where it's like, "We need to let in all the people who want to come to America." "Cool. Let's move them to Palo Alto." "Nah, let's move into Detroit."
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:01:21] Yeah. I mean, it also, I mean, in this case with the college students, it led them to signal that they would fit in. They would fit in culturally. So for example, with Asian-Americans, they would change their hobbies and the things that they like to do and all of that to things that were more palatable to white Americans. So they would say they like to ski and they like to go camping and they'd like to go waterboarding or whatever you call those sports. I don't even do those sports.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:49] Waterboarding, that's a white people thing right there. You mean wakeboarding but I got it.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:01:54] Do you call it waterboarding?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:57] Waterboarding is something you do to torture terrorists.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:02:00] Oh okay but what is that called?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:01] Yeah. Wakeboarding. I'm just now realizing that all of my friends' hobbies are so white, wakeboarding, skiing, camping. I guess black people don't wakeboard and camp. I'm learning this right now. Have you seen this? I sent you this article actually. It's about orchestras and bias and they started doing these blind auditions. Where they would say, "Hey, look, we need more diversity. Let's put the person who's auditioning behind like a curtain. So we don't know if they're a man or a woman. We don't know if they're Asian, black, white, we're just going to do blind auditions. And now they're finding that somehow that made things less diverse. I'm not sure how that's even possible. What's going on there?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:02:43] Yeah. We ever focused on gender diversity there. Because at the time, the vast majority of orchestras were white and male —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:52] Yeah. Surprise! All white guys are playing the violin.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:02:55] Yeah so this was in the '70s. And so it was a real problem. And so they decided to actually Institute these blind auditions where people could not see the person who was auditioning at all. They put that curtain down and they would play. It actually did lead to real change for women. So I think, you know, 50 percent more women made it beyond the entry-level interview. I think now, in fact, about 25 percent of the musicians who are in these big orchestras are women. So it did actually lead to some success and people like to hail that as a way to deal with bias. But the problem with it is that you're dealing with bias by being blinded to the person's identity. And so once she enters the orchestra, it's clear that she's a woman and how does that change the dynamics. You know, I had read one of these news articles that there was a woman who was suing the orchestra for gender bias in terms of pay. So the issues can continue and so making people blind to identity doesn't solve everything. People like to think about this color blindness also to deal with —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:07] Yeah, I was going to bring that up. Like I don't see color. And it's like, well, that's not helping anyone.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:04:11] Yeah, it's not. But then people are taught that, "Okay, if I don't see color, I can't be biased." But research on this shows that that's not the case actually it's the opposite. So they've done research with fourth and fifth graders that when do you encourage these kids to value diversity, they can spot blatant instances of discrimination. But when you take a group of kids and you encourage them to be colorblind, only half of them can actually spot instances of blatant discrimination. So what they're finding is, is that when you're trying to teach children to not see color, they also don't see the discrimination that comes with color. So it ends up leading people to be sort of more likely to be harmed by discrimination rather than less likely. Yeah, so there's a lot of research on this. Actually, a lot of people are doing work on colorblindness and much of the work is showing that there's a cost, a real cost to colorblind actually.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:11] What about the old, some of my best friends are a black trope, right? I think a lot of companies are even getting bias training to kind of check the box. Like you even hear about this. There are blogs and articles written online about how bias training at such-and-such company was a bunch of crap and everybody just kind of did it because HR made them go. It seems like that would make things worse. Like, "Oh, well our company's not discriminating against resumes that aren't white enough because we had biases training three Thursdays in a row." Like that could kind of make things worse or moral licensing. Like the concept that, "Well, we're doing the right thing with our bias training so we can afford to maybe only hire good looking young white people to work in the front of the house or the front office because that's the image we want to portray, but we're not racist because again, we had bias training three Thursdays in a row."
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:06:02] My colleague Benoît Monin does a lot of work on this, this sort of moral credentialing where you've done a good thing in the past. And so that gives you a credit in the bank to do more bad things. And so they're finding recently that it's not just individuals to this but, like you said, companies will do this as well. So that's what we were talking about before, right? That there could be harm to actually having the training, not just that they don't work as well as we might think, but it can also prevent companies from doing the things that they should to really address the issue.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:39] Yeah, I'm wary of whether it works. It seems like now it's probably the rage, the industry of bias training. I don't know if it's a new industry but certainly, right now it's going to be very de rigueur. Like a lot of this almost seems like low-cost image and brand managements run by people who decided last week that they were going to do bias training because they read your book and some articles on Google and they're like, "I can do bias training now," not run by scientists.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:07:07] I mean, it's a big business and there are a lot of consultants who are doing this across the country. The vast majority of it actually is not run by scientists. So that's part of the issue with having more systematic evaluations of it. So it would be great if we had those, right. Because we could tell which trainings actually are effective, which aren't, why, you know, we can really delve into this.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:28] Maybe you start credentialing people who are doing bias training and make sure it passes the sniff test. I don't know.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:07:34] Yeah. Yeah. You're right. You should raise the bar.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:38] Right. Raise the bar. That's right. What can we do in closing here? What can we do to mitigate bias? If we're wired for it, we can't shrug it off because we're wired for it. What on earth can we actually do about it?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:07:50] Yeah. So we're wired for it. We're vulnerable to it, but that doesn't mean we're going to act on it all the time. So our context, our environment can either amp up the bias and make it more likely, or it can make it less likely. And so that's what we want to help people to understand that it's something that can be triggered by your environment. So if you know what those triggers are, you have more control over it. There's something that you can actually do about it.
[01:08:14] So we've been talking a lot about policing. I can give you an example there, you know, working with people from the police department here in California and the Oakland Police Department, we were able to reduce the number of stops made by officers of people who weren't committing any serious crimes. And we did this by adding a simple question to the form that officers complete when they're engaging in a stop. And that is: Is this stuff intelligence-led? Yes or no. And what they mean by intelligence-led is that did I have prior information to tie this particular person to a specific crime?
[01:08:52] And we found that. You know, it's sort of pushing officers to answer that question before they make the stop. They pause. They slow down. They are sort of using evidence of wrongdoing in place of their intuition and that's what you want right to happen. And we found that by just adding that question, it really did reduce the number of stops officers made. And African-American stops alone fell by over 43 percent and the crime rate didn't go up. So there was a fear that you needed to stop that many black people to keep the crime rate down but it turns out that the crime rate did not go up when you stop fewer black people. The city wasn't more dangerous and actually, it became more safe.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:37] Well, thank you very much for your time and expertise in the middle of your personal — very personal experience with a crime being perpetrated upon you. There's a first time for everything. The book is great. It's called Biased. We'll link to it in the show notes for people that want to check it out.
[01:09:54] You know what, actually, this might make sense to close with this. I mean, you have very personal experience as well with bias. If memory serves the first time you heard yourself called Dr. Eberhardt was from a judge.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:10:06] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:07] Can you give us the short version of that? That was a kind of a crazy story.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:10:09] Well, yeah, the short version is that it was the day before I graduated from Harvard with a PhD in psychology and I was pulled over by a cop and turns out the thought that my tags were expired and he ended up calling a tow truck and arresting us. I was with a friend, so that's why I say arresting us. We ended up getting arrested for expired tags basically or so we thought. We were actually handcuffed and sort of taken into the precinct and handcuffed to a wall and all of that. So it was just a horrific experience. I was let go and I was able to go to my commencement and all that with bruises and so forth. But then the next day, I had to appear in court. It was in court that I learned that this officer had accused us of assault and battery on a police officer because when he reached in to unbuckle my seatbelt to arrest me, I touched his hand with my finger. Anyways, we were shocked to learn that. And it turns out that the judge threw the case out and basically looked at me and said, "Dr. Eberhardt, you are free to go." And that was the first time someone called me Dr. Eberhardt.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:28] That's like it's a little humorous in the beginning, but then you realize just how sad it is. It should have been like the happiest moment, one of the happiest moments of your life, you just finished a decade or something, or more of research at one of the hardest schools in the world. And it's like the person using your title for you first is not — it's not the Dean, the Regent, your family. It's the judge saying, "Oh, look, you're not a criminal because this whole thing is a bunch of crap. And you got a PhD from Harvard that says studying this exact thing." I mean it's just a cruel irony in a weird way, sad irony.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:12:01] Yeah, it was, it was indeed.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:03] Well, Dr. Eberhardt, thank you very much once again for your time. I hope you get your bike back.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:12:12] I have this sense you're going to air that part.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:15] I have to now, right?
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:12:21] It's funny.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:23] it's such a weird thing to happen during the live show. It's just so bizarre.
Jennifer Eberhardt: [01:12:29] Yeah. Well, anyway, there you go.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:33] Yes, thank you so much. This is really great. I really do appreciate it. I'm looking forward to hearing the feedback from the audience on this as well.
[01:12:420] A lot of folks ask me what are my favorite episodes of the show. It's really hard. It's like picking a favorite kid. But before I close the show and give you my final thoughts, I wanted to throw down this trailer of episode 201 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:12:55] I've heard that you actually got to Google and didn't think the company was up too much when you were the CEO of Novell and just kind of weren't even interested in the job. And it was the argument that you got into with Larry and Sergey that really won you over.
Eric Schmidt: [01:13:05] You know, I heard about a search engine. Search engines don't matter too much, but fine. You know, it's always tried to say yes. So I walked into a building down the street and here's Larry and Sergey in an office and they have my bio projected on the wall and they proceed to grill me on what I'm doing at Novell which they thought was a terrible idea. And I remember as I left that I hadn't had that good an argument in years. And that's the thing that started the process.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:34] In a meeting once someone asked you about the dress code at Google, and I think your response was, "Well, you have to wear something."
Eric Schmidt: [01:13:40] That rule is still in place. You have to actually wear something here at work. They hired super capable people. And they always wanted people who did something interesting. So if you were a salesperson, it was really good if you were also an Olympian. We hired a couple of rocket scientists. No, we weren't doing rocketry. We had a series of medical doctors who we were just impressed with, even though they weren't doing medicine. The conversations at the table were very interesting, but there really wasn't a lot of structure. And I knew I was in the right place because the potential was enormous. And I said, "Well, aren't there any schedules. No, it just sort of happens."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:21] If you want to hear more from Eric Schmidt and learn what role AI will take in our lives and how ideas are fostered inside a corporate beast like Google check out episode 201 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:14:34] I enjoyed this episode. I have to think this might be the first time someone's actually been robbed during an episode of the show. That's really a first here on The Jordan Harbinger Show. Not even once in 13-plus years has this happened while we're recording that someone has witnessed a crime happening to them in the moment from their home office window or anywhere for that matter.
[01:14:57] Some things we didn't get to touch on during the show, personal connections, and relationships also mitigate the effects of personal bias. It's almost like we're replacing one bias in favor of another, but it doesn't matter what type of relationship, although the closer the relationship, the better. So if we fall in love with somebody of a different race or ethnicity, it helps mitigate that bias even more. Or if we make friends with somebody with a different race or ethnicity, it'll help mitigate that bias. So one strong or close relationship of another race or ethnicity can shatter stereotypes across the board, but it can't always. I know tons of people, of course, and we all do who are low key racist, but they're, "There was a black guy at my wedding." So they just think their friends are the exception to the stereotypes or bias. But in general, creating relationships with people of other races and ethnicities does help to mitigate bias. So if you find that in yourself, you know what you have to do.
[01:15:49] Other studies from the book that I thought were fascinating; namely, our brains associate negative words with darker colors. This is all an unfortunate accident of the genetic lottery, where our ancestors were born. Also, discrimination, finding new places to rear its ugly head. Airbnb turns out, even minority hosts discriminate against other minorities. Very disturbing there. Of course, Airbnb is doing a lot to try and mitigate this, but it's very tough as we've found through the last, I don't know, a couple of centuries of American history, very difficult to eliminate this.
[01:16:21] Our brains just don't want to cooperate. People with baby faces tend to be seen as more naive, less intelligent. Male leaders tend to have sharper features. Taller people have higher salaries and get further in their careers according to somebody. We've heard this before a few times. This is the result of bias and bias creeps into our cognition in so many ways. It just seems almost impossible to prevent it entirely.
[01:16:44] Big, thanks to Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt. The book is called Biased. We'll link to it in the show notes. If you do buy books from our guests, please use the website links. It does help support the show. It's a little bit but it all adds up. Worksheets for the episode in the show notes, transcripts for the episode in the show notes. There's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm also at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter, Instagram, or hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:17:08] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free. That's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show, they're in the course, they're contributing to the course. That course is rife with the expertise of those you've heard here.
[01:17:27] This show is created in association with PodcastOne and my amazing team. That includes Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. You know somebody who is interested in bias, brain science, race, ethnicity, diversity, share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode. Please do share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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