CM 056: Mahzarin Banaji On The Hidden Biases Of Good People

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Blog Post - Mahzarin and Blind SpotDo good people discriminate more often than they think? That is exactly what a team of researchers found when they analyzed the thoughts and reactions of millions of people around the world.  

Harvard University Professor of Social Ethics, Mahzarin Banaji, author of the book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, shares surprising findings from Implicit Association Tests taken by over 18 million people from over 30 countries. What she reveals may surprise you.

Banaji is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, as well as the Radcliffe and Santa Fe Institutes. She and her co-author Anthony Greenwald, Professor at Washington University, have spent their careers uncovering the hidden biases we all carry when it comes to issues like race, gender, age, and socioeconomics.

In this interview, we talk about:

  • How knowing our blindspots can help us innovate
  • How we can measure the extent of our biases with the Implicit Association Test
  • How the implicit association test can launch a dialogue around bias
  • Who we say is American versus who we really believe is American
  • How our tendency is to be curious and to want to learn about ourselves
  • How much we want to know is a measure of our smart we are
  • The role competition and social knowledge play in motivation to learn and grow
  • Why we need to get beyond learning about it to doing something about it
  • The importance of what we are willing to do to address our biases
  • Knowledge of bias helps us rethink hiring, law, admissions, medicine, and more
  • Bias in our minds hurts us, too
  • The fact that implicit bias starts as young as 6 years old
  • Disappointing differences in explicit vs implicit love of our ethnic or racial group
  • What is not associated with our groups in society gets dropped from our identities
  • Bias and discrimination can come from who we help
  • How referral programs can reinforce bias and lack of diversity
  • A tip on how to ensure referral programs cultivate diversity
  • The fact that we all like beautiful people and how that harms us
  • Ways to outsmart our biases
  • What symphony orchestras can teach us about overcoming bias in hiring
  • The fact that good people can and do have bias
  • How we will be perceived by future generations if we can address our biases
  • Whether Mahzarin likes science fiction

Selected Links to Topics Mentioned


Anthony Greenwald

Implicit Association Test


Inclusion Conference 2016

What Works by Iris Bohnet

Social imprinting

Group identity

Stanley Milgram

Abu Ghraib

My Lai Massacre

If you enjoy the podcast, please rate and review it on iTunes. For automatic delivery of new episodes, be sure to subscribe. As always, thanks for listening!

Thank you to Emmy-award-winning Creative Director Vanida Vae for designing the Curious Minds logo, and thank you to Rob Mancabelli for all of his production expertise!



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  1. Malik Oxford on October 5, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Really enjoyed this podcast episode. I actually own the Blind Spot audiobook and just recently started listening. Another great book is Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude Steele. It would be great to have him on your show. Some of the ideas discussed in the podcast remind me of the book Whistling Vivaldi.

  2. Gayle on October 5, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks Malik! I agree – another great book and possible guest.