Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People (2013). by Banaji, Mahzarin & Greenwald, Anthony, 254 pp.

Dawin Whiten, Mustang Success Center, Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo, [email protected]

In Blind Spot, Banaji and Greenwald explored the concept of hidden-bias mindbugs, which they described as automatic thought habits that lead to errors in how people perceive, remember, reason or make decisions (p. 4). In the academic advising role, advisors have unique opportunities to establish deep, meaningful relationships with students and coworkers. Blind Spot provided insight to help advisors become more aware of the factors that influence the thought process, decisions, and actions of their students and coworkers. Blind Spot strived to keep the reader engaged through hands-on demonstrations that showed how unconscious biases towards others are a fundamental part of the human psyche, which if unchecked, can cause undesired and unintended results. In reading Blind Spot, advisors uncover an awareness of their own hidden-bias mindbugs that will help them to avoid unintended interactions with students and coworkers. Academic advisors need to be aware that their personal biases or prejudices can have negative influence in their interactions students and coworkers. This increased awareness allow academic advisors to consciously find creative ways to connect with students and coworkers, especially those that trigger their personal biases or prejudices.

Blind Spot illustrated various examples of and metaphors for blind spots all people have as a recurring theme throughout the book. In one metaphoric example, Banaji and Greenwald likened a ‘blind spot’ to an automobile’s side-view mirrors suggesting that people must look into their blind spots or side-mirrors in order to avoid a collision [unintended interaction] (p. 166). The relationship between blind spots and ‘hidden-bias mindbugs’, according to Banaji and Greenwald, is that hidden-bias mindbugs are housed in every person’s blind spot. They are more ingrained [closer] than they appear [people realize]. Even the most well-intentioned advisor, if unaware of his or her personal biases, might be negatively influenced by mindbugs. 

Blind Spot revealed the hidden costs of stereotypes and highly recommended that people seek innovative ways to look into or be more aware of their blind spots. Banaji and Greenwald provided varying examples of stereotypes in terms of their nature and consequences: first, how they exert influence and the costs they impose on the targets of stereotyped perceptions, and second, about the self-defeating effects of stereotypes on the very people who hold them (p.95).  This is insightful for advisors because it exemplifies the way that pervasive and potentially harmful stereotypes can routinely impair their judgement and actions when interacting with students and coworkers.

As a reprieve, Banaji and Greenwald offered a few strategies they believe to counteract hidden biases. Referencing numerous scientific methods and experiments that demonstrate the effectiveness of the blinding method and the no-brainer solution in certain situations, unfortunately they cannot be applied to all situations (p. 166-167).  Just as in academic advising, advisors do not interact with every student exactly the same way because every student is unique and present varying experiences and perceptions.  Banaji and Greenwald stressed the importance of and their pessimism about securing funding necessary for scientific research projects to develop more effective and sustainable strategies to completely eradicate mindbugs. Blind Spot comes highly recommended. Infused with insightful information and engaging hands-on demonstrations that can help academic advisors participate in uncovering and becoming more aware of their own hidden-bias mindbugs and inspire creative ways to counteract them.

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