• Toby Sinclair

Book Summary: Biased by Dr Jennifer Eberhardt | Free Infographic

Updated: Aug 25



3 Big Ideas:

  1. Bias negatively impacts Black people in almost all parts of society. Housing, Education, Criminal Justice, Employment etc. The bias is built into the system.

  2. Mental Priming and Fear are some of the primary drivers of bias. These factors are particularly present in the Criminal Justice System.

  3. Color blindness, ignoring race, can lead to negative impacts. When people focus on not seeing color, they may also fail to see discrimination.

2 Quotes:

“For the most part we do not first see, and then define, we define first and then see”
“The formulas used to calculate bail often rely on factors—job stability, arrest history, family resources—that circumstantially disadvantage young black men. Analysts estimate that the bail premium charged to black male defendants is 35 percent more than what white defendants pay”

1 Action


Seek feedback in moments of fear and high pressure when biases might be driving my thinking. This is when bias is most likely to occur.


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A longer summary of Biased by Jennifer Eberhardt if you have more time…

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Facts and Figures from studies shared in the book:

  • In 2016, nearly a thousand people were killed in the United States by police officers.

  • Black people are stopped by police at disproportionate levels and are more likely to have force used upon them.

  • Only a fraction of officers involved in questionable shootings are prosecuted, and it’s rare to get a conviction.

  • 60 percent of the stops officers made in Oakland were of black people, although blacks made up only 28 percent of the Oakland population at the time. Blacks were disproportionately stopped even when we controlled for factors like the crime rate and the racial breakdown of residents in the areas where the stops took place.

  • Black drivers are twice as likely as white drivers to have been stopped for a high-discretion equipment violation as opposed to a moving violation.

  • While blacks made up 67 percent of Ferguson’s population, they accounted for 85 percent of vehicle stops and 90 percent of citations. And though black drivers were twice as likely to be searched by police, they were 26 percent less likely than whites to be found in possession of contraband.

  • The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized nation in the world. We account for only 4.4 percent of the world’s population but house 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. More than 2.1 million Americans were behind bars in 2017.

  • Although blacks make up just 12 percent of the U.S. population, nearly 40 percent of the nation’s prison inmates are black.

  • White people are likely to be a minority in this country, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections

  • More than half of white Americans—55 percent—believe there is discrimination against white people in the United States today, according to a 2017 survey by Harvard University’s School of Public Health

Categorization Biases:

  • A universal function of the brain that allows us to organize and manage the overload of stimuli that constantly bombard us.

  • This bias impedes our efforts to embrace and understand people who are deemed not like us

  • Out-group members, are not processed as deeply or attended to as carefully. 

  • The concept of stereotypes dates back to the time of Plato, whose dialogues explored the question of whether one’s perceptions correspond to the actual state of affairs.

  • “Other-race effect.” people are much better at recognizing faces of their own race than faces of other races

  • By the time babies are three months old, their brains react more strongly to faces of their own race than to faces of people unlike them

Bias and Perception:

  • Implicit bias can be layered and complicated. It’s simple to explain, but not so easy to see or to rectify.

  • Bias drives what we perceive, how we think, and the actions we take.

  • Research shows that fear can be a driver of bias. The same fear response that’s supposed to keep us safe can activate bias in ways that stigmatize and threaten others

  • Research shows that people tend to grossly overestimate the extent to which they will speak out against prejudice, particularly when they are not the target of the offense.

  • When someone seems foreign or unfamiliar or unpredictable, your gut reactions prepare you to be wary. That is when out-group bias can surface instinctively

Police Shootings:

  • Participants were even faster to respond “shoot” to a black person holding a gun than they were to a white person holding a gun.

  • More likely to mistakenly “shoot” a black person with no gun.

  • Racial bias was found both in the speed of response and in the decision whether to shoot. 

Criminal Justice System:

  • Arrest – 11 million arrest each year. Three-quarters for nonviolent offences

  • Bail – Many people cannot afford pre-trial bail. The formulas used to calculate bail often rely on factors—job stability, arrest history, family resources—that circumstantially disadvantage young black men. Analysts estimate that the bail premium charged to black male defendants is 35 percent more than what white defendants pay

  • Plea Bargaining – Black defendants are more likely than whites, Asians, or Latinos to be offered plea deals that require prison time, particularly for drug-related crimes

  • Defence – Blacks are also more likely to rely on the free public defender system, which puts them at a distinct disadvantage. Black defendants who hire private attorneys are almost twice as likely to have the primary charge against them reduced than are the black clients of public defenders.

  • Sentence – Decades of research have shown that murderers of white victims are significantly more likely to be sentenced to death than murderers of black people—even when controlling for nonracial factors that could influence sentencing.

  • Release –  The prison experience has been shown to dramatically deepen social inequality, marginalizing former inmates in almost every significant sphere

Housing:

  • African Americans are more likely than any other group to live in segregated neighbourhoods.

  • According to studies by sociologists Lincoln Quillian and Devah Pager, the more blacks there are in a community, the higher people imagine the crime rate to be—regardless of whether statistics bear that out. That correlates with fear and with bias.

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Talking about Race:

  • Research shows that talking about racial issues with people of other races is particularly stressful for whites

  • Heart rates go up

  • Blood vessels constrict

  • Bodies prepare for a threat

  • Demonstrate cognitive depletion, struggling with simple things like word-recognition tasks.

  • Even thinking about talking about race can be emotionally demanding. In a study of how white people arranged the physical space when they knew they’d be in conversation with blacks, the arrangements varied based on the subject of those chats. When the study participants were told they’d be talking in small groups about love and relationships, they set the chairs close to one another. When they were told the topic was racial profiling, they put the chairs much farther apart.

  • As social psychologist Gordon Allport outlined in his 1954 classic, The Nature of Prejudice , contact has a much greater chance of piercing bias when the interactions meet these conditions:

  • equal status

  • condoned by authorities

  • personal rather than superficial.

Education:

  • Black students are nearly four times as likely to be suspended from school as their white peers, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Office for Civil Rights involving more than ninety-six thousand K–12 public schools.

  • Black students are significantly more likely to be disciplined for relatively minor infractions than any other group.

  • Thus begins a vicious cycle: As black students pull back, their teachers may become more frustrated with them, and as the teachers’ frustration grows, those students become even more inclined to disengage or act out.

Danger of color blindness:

  • One of the most common practices schools foster is the strategy of color blindness. Try not to notice color. Try not to think about color. If you don’t allow yourself to think about race, you can never be biased.

  • When people focus on not seeing color, they may also fail to see discrimination.

  • Encouraging children to remain blind to race dampened their detection of discrimination, which had ripple effects. Color blindness promoted exactly the opposite of what was intended: racial inequality. It left minority children to fend for themselves in an environment where the harms they endured could not be seen.

Employment:

  • Today, the unemployment rate for black teens and young adults is about twice as high as it is for whites. At a time of life when critical work habits and life skills are developed, black teens in low-income neighbourhoods—where businesses, restaurants, and retail outlets are sparse—have fewer options and face adult competition for entry-level jobs.

  • Historically, not only are blacks less likely to be employed than whites; they have worse jobs and earn less money. Many factors contribute to these disparities, including the quality of the applicant’s social networks marshalled to secure employment as well as the level of education, skills, or experience certain jobs require.

  • “Diversity” has been a corporate watchword since before they were born. That’s supposed to reflect an enthusiastic embrace of new perspectives and a willingness to hear and accommodate previously marginalized voices. Instead, it seems to have become a numbers game. Companies want to check the boxes but not change their culture. So young people are desperately tailoring themselves to fit into those boxes.

  • For example, when it comes to corporate leadership roles, the mental associations between whiteness and leadership have contributed to the scarcity of minorities at the helm of powerhouse corporate entities.

Keeping Bias in check:

  • Bias is not something we exhibit and act on all the time. It is conditional, and the battle begins by understanding the conditions under which it is most likely to come alive.

  • Among those conditions, speed and ambiguity are two of the strongest triggers of bias. When we are forced to make quick decisions using subjective criteria, the potential for bias is great.

  • Bias is also more likely to flare up when our decisions are left unmonitored when there are no checks and balances on the spur-of-the-moment choices we make.

  • Success requires us to be willing to tolerate that discomfort as we learn to communicate, get to know one another, and make deeper efforts to shift the underlying cultures that lead to bias and exclusion.

©2020 by Toby Sinclair.