On making it easier for those that mean well
Autofill Bias & Microaggressions
CatFran: Can you explain implicit bias again?
GamerGirl: Sure thing — one way to think about it is that our brain acts like Google’s autofill sometimes, and we have to delete what it erroneously thinks we’re about to type.
Or rather, we have to modify something we’re on the verge of saying out loud & revise the cognitions that we’re using to assess someone unfairly relative to others.
By wearing glasses, I make it a little easier for my allied interaction partner to overcome their autofill. I make it easier for them to cognitively engage with me in the egalitarian manner in which they desire.
Given a lifetime of tv shows, movies, music, locker room talk, prejudiced jokes from parents, coaches, teachers, religious figures, peers, etc, a well-meaning ally with a heart of gold must expend some mental energy to overcome the lifetime of passively encoded cognitions about group-X to interact with someone from that group in the spirit of allyship, inclusion, & equality that they truly wish to espouse.
The mental money (cognitive energy) available to my ally-friend to spend will depend on several factors, including: how well they slept last night, their consumption patterns, their level of stress, physical health, socioemotional support and emotional health, etc
The amount of mental money my friend needs to spend will depend on several factors, including: the diversity of their childhood neighborhood, the diversity of their close friendships, if they played certain team sports, the diversity of their classrooms, workplace, place of worship (if any), the diversity of the friends their parents would bring over to their residence while growing up, their history if interracial relationships, if they are multiracial (especially if they overlap with my ethnoracial background), how much they traveled to other countries while growing up, their personal interest in diversity, inclusion, allyship, and learning about others, and the degree to which they have actively included individuals from different backgrounds than their own in the life.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but the final point is perhaps the most important of the items listed. Diversity by itself is helpful, but its potential to move us in a postracial direction depends on inclusion at the microecological level of our everyday interpersonal lives.
Consider the following scenarios to understand what this means and its relevance to social utilitarianism.
Social Psychology Vignettes
Jasper and Goku are sitting across the table from each other at a company luncheon, with other coworkers filling out the seats to their left and right. Jasper, a White American, heterosexual cis-male, Protestant Christian, and a member of Qanon is at a company luncheon with his coworker Goku who is East Asian American, heterosexual cis-male, Protestant Christian, and not involved in anything related to activism or politics. Jasper was born and raised in Pierre, South Dakota, the city with the lowest Asian population in America (.2%) (combined percentage of East Asian, South East Asian, and South Asian Indian). Goku was born and raised in Oakland, California, the most ethnoracially diverse city in America. Given the differences in diversity in their hometowns, Goku has had significantly more interactions with White Americans than Jasper has had with Asian Americans.
What this means is that even if they had identical amounts of sleep, equal amounts of stress thus far that day at work, and had identical health statuses, Jasper would expend more mental energy hitting the delete button on all the career ending microaggressions autofilling in his head under the jokes I’m sure everyone will laugh at tab.
To Goku’s left is Piper, a White American, bisexual cis-female, Catholic, and a member of Introverts For Allyship (a group dedicated to the equal treatment, liberty, prosperity, and inclusion of all). To Goku’s right is LeBron Marquez, a Multiracial American (half Black, half Hispanic), gay cis-male, Agnostic, and a member of Golden Gate Gamers (a group of gamers who live close to the Golden Gate Bridge).
Given the diversity of Goku’s experiences growing up in Oakland, the mental money (cognitive energy) he expends in his interactions with Piper, LeBron, and Jasper are virtually costfree. Regardless of the amount of sleep he’s had, how stressed out he is, how hungry he is, how bad traffic was that morning, or even if someone asked him to count backwards from 1000 by 13s (a common cognitive load paradigm), the egalitarian, inclusive, and postracial nature in which Goku interacts with his colleagues would remain the same.
Here is how social utilitarianism comes into play…
Piper grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, a city with a large Black American population but few East Asian American individuals. As an earnest ally, she is committed to treating everyone equally, though she feels she may be more adept at treating Blacks equally relative to Asians. Nevertheless, she spends the mental money (cognitive energy) necessary to interact with Goku the way she would interact with anyone White (like herself) or Black (like her hometown population).
If Goku decided to wear glasses (instead of contacts) when entering situations in which interacting with Piper was likely, it would reduce the amount of mental money Piper would have to spend to afford an egalitarian interaction. Glasses help offset the cognitive activation of ethnoracial stereotypes and help diffuse the influence of stimuli that otherwise triggers implicit biases. …diffuse the influence of the perceptual stimuli that triggers implicit biases.
Glasses help reduce the amount of mental money allies spend to afford an egalitarian interaction.
By wearing glasses, Goku is helping Piper be a better ally.
In short, Piper truly desires to be an ally and treat everyone equally, but treating some groups equally requires more cognitive effort than others. Thus, by wearing glasses, Goku is helping Piper be a better ally. If the mental price Piper paid each time she endeavored to treat East Asian Americans equally was $100 brain dollars, Goku’s glasses reduces the price to $70. He made it easier for her to be a good friend.
Note → it is not necessary that Piper be aware of the glasses being utilized in this manner and/or having this influence on her. It is not even necessary that the glasses be intentionally utilized in a machiavellian sense; indeed, the same outcome would manifest even if Goku was wearing glasses due to experiencing corneal irritation when wearing contact lenses & his ophthalmologist requiring that he switch to glasses.
Importantly, those glasses may make little difference in Goku’s interactions with Jasper and LeBron. Jasper is not close enough to a threshold of inclusion and/or interpersonal intergroup comfort for the glasses to be of any significant benefit. Jasper is currently paying $200 brain dollars and Goku’s classes only reduce the price to $198.
LeBron would not benefit from the racial compensation influence of the glasses either, but for the opposite reason. Multiracial individuals tend to be more open to inclusive intergroup interactions with monoracial individuals more than monoracials are open to inclusive intergroup interactions with each other. Basically, LeBron is paying $7 brain dollars and Goku’s glasses only reduce the price to $6.23.
Sidenotes. (Per usual, assume direct quotes)
We will never be perfect but we can always be perfected.
“…sociologists found Filipino-Mexican unions to be commonplace.
Mutual understandings of cultural and social expectations as well as a shared migrant experience also encouraged unions between Filipino men and Mexican women.
As Rudy Guevara has shown in his new work on Mexipinos in San Diego, “cultural exchanges reinforced the bonds of mestizaje between Mexicans and Filipinos” in ways that brought communities together.
Miscegenation laws did not to police relationships between non-whites, thus the minority interracial marriage institution was left unquestioned and intact.
In colonial Maryland, however, early customs did not prohibit interracial marriage between “negro slaves” and female indentured servants. Up until the enactment of the law in 1661, black men and white women intermarried freely, and their children following the custom of the time acquired the status of their free white mothers.
“Mexican & Punjabi interminority marriage is especially informative because it shows us how minorities married outside the restrictive boundaries of Black-White miscegenation laws in California” (Maria Esguerra, 2013, p. 12).
California was also the first state to declare miscegenation laws unconstitutional in the landmark case Perez v. Sharp in 1948.”
Social Adversity & Immunological Accent
The imprints of social adversity are observable over time suggesting that they remain “biologically embedded” even as people have new experiences & gene expression levels shift in response to novel and/or short-term environmental cues.
“…marginal decoupling between biological embedding & gene expression levels allows for simultaneous stability & plasticity/adaptation”
→ current negative outcomes aren’t set in stone in adolescence or young adulthood, but our immunological accent is increasingly resistant to change as we age (just as the accent we use talking to our parents/friends through childhood is increasingly resistant to change)
Certain genetic variants contain greater sensitivity to environmental inputs, “for better and for worse,” such that some people may be more genetically susceptible to be influenced not only by more harmful environments but also by more beneficial ones (Belsky, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & van IJzendoorn, 2007; Belsky et al., 2009). This differential susceptibility hypothesis predicts that in one environment, a genotype may seem “risky,” whereas in another environment, the opposite may be true. Individuals with different genotypes vary in how directly responsive they are to environmental cues.
…the literature has largely overlooked a distinct and potentially critical action that minorities might take to try to avoid anticipated discrimination: changing how they present themselves — especially in relation to racial cues” (Kang et al., 2016, p. 3).
…it does ‘‘not reveal the extent to which [minority] individuals change their behavior to avoid experiencing discrimination’’ (Blank, Dabady, and Citro, 2004: 112; see Pager and Pedulla, 2015). Thus the nature and consequences of the actions that racial minority job seekers might take in anticipation of discrimination remain incompletely understood.
We have a racial hierarchy of numerous preferences: romantic, interpersonal, who we will protect & serve vs put our knee on their neck, who really seems to be in enough pain to deserve pain killers, whose hand do we call on in class in 3rd grade when reading Gone With The Wind, whose email do we reply to or take seriously when building a research team/ generating ideas, etc.
“The place of black women and women of color in society’s “desirability” hierarchy — Put simply, black women — and especially dark-skinned black women without Eurocentric features — are rarely ever seen or depicted as desirable.”
— The reason for these prejudices going unchecked seems to be the twin ideas of ‘types’ and ‘preferences’: two words which let most people get away without questioning their romantic choices any further beyond “they’re my type and that’s just my preference.
Dating is still a place where most people not only refuse to acknowledge that racially-based selection is a problem but actively accept it as a matter of personal preference, of ‘type’
it’s certainly worth examining why we’re so accepting of the idea that it’s somehow OK to write off whole groups as a romantic option based on ethnicity. Or conversely, why we hoist other demographics on to a pedestal as the ideal.”
Orgasms increase the absolute number of natural killer cells & leukocytes in peripheral blood, which helps boost the immune system.
“…an anti-inflammatory effect due to OXT reducing inflammation, thus allowing the wound to heal more quickly.” — Samantha Tojino
Assisting Allies 2: Changing Your Name
Using an Americanized name on applications — or your initials — may improve outcomes in enough instances for it to become as much an auto-pilot strategy as wearing glasses.
Consider the following from Jessica Wildfire
“Everyone thinks they’re incredibly progressive, until it comes down to actually treating people with respect.”
“A female researcher named Tina ran a small experiment. She submitted 16 grant applications under her full name.
Only one was funded.
The next year, she submitted the same number of grants. This time, she used only used her initials. Her success rate quintupled.
The year after that, her university switched to a new system that automatically used her full name. Her success rate went back down again. So she asked her university to replace her name with her initials, and her success rate went back up.” — Jessica Wildfire
Human Development Reports
Gender disparities are a persistent form of inequality in every country. Despite remarkable progress in some areas, no…
…”Published today as part of the Gender Social Norms Index (pdf, p. 8), only 14% of women and 10% of men are free of bias against women. This is a data point that correlates with gender inequality, the study found: Where biases against women are stronger, inequality between genders tends to be higher.
Even more worrying, the UN found that while it may seem as if the situation is improving — given all the recent discussion around gender equality — things are actually getting worse. According to the index, the percentage of men with some bias against women grew from 89.4% between 2004 and 2009 to 89.9% between 2010 and 2014. Women with some bias against women also increased, the study found, rising from 83.4% to 84.6% in the same period.
Women’s attitudes towards women have worsened the most among people who hold moderate to intense gender biases. The percentage of women in this category grew three percentage points between 2004–2009 and 2010–2014, from 56.6% to 59.7%. The share of men harboring moderate to intense gender bias, meanwhile, grew from 70% to 70.8% in the same period.
In Sweden, bias against women has grown the most. India saw the second-largest growth in prejudice against women, but much more so among women than men.”