Blind Spot (review)

I love a good challenge to my preconceived beliefs now and then.  So, when I stumbled upon the new book by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald, I just had to check it out.

Their book Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People, isn’t a conventional book at all.  It’s blindspot-bookinteractive from the get go.  Blind Spot presents the reader with quick quizzes based on the “Implicit Association Test”. For instance, the authors have the reader to find catagorical associations in which you check off, quickly, the pairings of words.  For example, one quiz pairs pleasant ideas with African American faces as one category. The other is unpleasant ideas with European American faces.  You time yourself and then record how quickly you performed the quiz and how many errors you made.

Then, you take the next test which pairs unpleasant ideas with African American faces with the other category being pleasant ideas with European American faces.  Again you time yourself and check for errors.  When you compare the results, you’ll find the discrepancies in your associatiative thinking patterns.

The reader must be prepared for some unsettling, perhaps disturbing revelations about themselves.  The caution is that we should not take the results as a negative, nor should we berate ourselves because of our hidden biases,  Instead, the knowledge of our biases can be used as a way to live a more mindful life.  We can use the information to improve our outlook to compensate and work through our hidden bigotry and prejudices.

A useful insight about oppressed minorities and gender is how our mental blind spots contribute to ones own oppression. In the case of women, internalized social beliefs about themselves are hidden in the unconscious thinking of women. For instance, boys are thought to be better at mathematics than girls. When this belief is revealed for what it is, girls find that they can excel in mathematics, too.  The same can be said for other people who are targets of extreme bias. An Implicit Association Test that presents examples of anti-gay social attitudes has revealed a shocking degree of internalized homophobia among gay and lesbian test takers.

When approached with a level-headed, open minded attitude, the techniques in the book become an important tool in self improvement and self perception. To be honest, as a fairly liberal person who considers himself fair minded, unbigoted, non-homophobic and non-xenophobic, I was shocked at how many chinks in my armor there are.  I found some background beliefs about different nationalities and religions. I also uncovered a little bit of internalized homophobia.  Instead of being alarmed by this or using the results as an alibi to continue with harmful thought patterns, I can use this information as a tool to help me enhance my efforts towards personal growth.

blindspot-RepublicansNot only is this information important in my own self-assessment, it helps me be more patient and compassionate about other people who display less tolerant attitudes and beliefs.  In other words, becoming more tolerant of myself and others will lead me to a more joyful and productive life.

I highly recommend that the quizzes be taken as the authors instruct.  If you take the position to be fair to yourself, you’ll gain some important, useful insights to improve your attitudes and life.  Perhaps some readers will want to use knowledge of their own blind spots as validation for intolerance and bias. I hope not.  My hope is that Blind Spot will awaken the reader to his or her own inner excuses, white lies and cognitive dissonance. That awareness can then be used to get around their own errors in thinking.

I do not unconditionally recommend the findings in the book. While hidden biases are pervasive in all of us, the evidence is still inconclusive as to whether or not all hidden preferences can be exposed by these particular tests.  That said, I did find Blind Spot to be an eye opening and enjoyable book.

{Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R Banaji and Anthony G Greenwald. Delacorte Press ISBN: 978-0-553-80464-5}


The Blue Jay of Happiness knows that ignorance of his own faults does not lead to anybody’s happiness.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, Controversy, Health, Politics, religion, Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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