Saturday, February 28, 2015


My workplace offered a half-day even featuring Harvard professor Dr. Mahzarin Banjj, who shared the research behind her book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People.

The ideas she presented were complex, but she presented them simply, and had the audience participate in some tests that made many realize they were not immune to blind spots of their own.
The first time I heard this riddle was in the early 1970’s, on ‘All in the Family’.  I was only about 10 at the time, and I can’t remember if I came up with the ‘right’ answer or not, but I do remember my grandfather telling me to take it to heart:
A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies at the scene and the son, badly injured, is rushed to the hospital. In the operating room, the surgeon looks at the boy and says, “I can’t operate on this boy. He is my son.”

Pause until you’ve formulated an answer. Okay, click here for the answer to the riddle.  Astoundingly, more than 80% people in the year 2015 still don't arrive at the solution.

We’re all guilty of bias because we are all human, but sometimes we are not even aware how these unconscious associations or “mind bugs” influence our behaviour and choices.  Being aware you might have a blind spot can help widen your view.

More than half the people watching fail to see the obvious in this selective attention test, where people are asked to count the number of times a basketball is passed on the court.  If you haven’t taken it yet, please do!

Thankfully there are tools to help you become more aware, such as Harvard's Implicit Association Test.
It is well known that people don't always ‘speak their minds’, and it is suspected that people don’t always ‘know their minds’. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology. This web site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods. This new method is called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT for short.
At the end of her presentation Dr. Banjj said something astounding and provocative. We may only have one or two generations left as the human beings we know ourselves to be now. Technology is changing so fast we can expect to have computer chips embedded in our brains and hearts to the extent we become unrecognizable as a carbon-based species and evolve into something entirely different. What can we do now for the generations to come, to help our future society be as diverse as possible?

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