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Provost's Search Committee Tutorial: A Primer

Please Note: This is not the tutorial but a narrative version of tutorial materials, a primer if you will. Reading through this material will NOT give the necessary certification for serving on a faculty search committee. It is designed instead to offer all who are interested a chance to become familiar with the material covered in the tutorial prior to taking the tutorial and/or a chance to review material and references for individual topics after you have taken the tutorial.

If you would like to actually take the tutorial please click here.

 

6. Hidden Biases

 

The faculty search process is about evaluating people. Although we are all committed to fair assessment based on agreed upon criteria, the research discussed in this question suggests that in spite of our best intentions we are prone to implicit bias in our evaluations during the hiring process. An important way to help reduce the negative impact of these unconscious biases is to become aware of them—gaining insight is a precondition for counteracting implicit bias.

UVa psychology professors Stacey Sinclair and Brian Nosek study the subtle ins and outs of bias and prejudice, each from a unique perspective. Sinclair (2006) notes:

Most of the work in our lab examines how people's motivations and goals in interpersonal relationships influence the establishment and validation of social beliefs and attitudes, as well as how sharing beliefs with others facilitates relationship development and belief affirmation….we seek to better understand how conscious or non-conscious stereotypic beliefs are attenuated or perpetuated through social interactions.

Nosek studies implicit processes, “mental activities that proceed outside of conscious awareness or control.” In a recent article Nosek (2006) discussed the concept of implicit bias:

One persistent belief that defies evidence is the conviction that all of our behavior comes from conscious intentions. Much of human behavior is governed by mental processes that exist outside of conscious awareness and conscious control….

…[this] suggests a disconcerting conclusion: Our conscious intentions and values may not be directing our behavior as much as we believe they are….Gaining insight into the mental operations that lead behavior astray of values is a precondition for predicting, understanding, and controlling implicit biases….[italics added]

The link between implicit bias and behavior appears to be particularly strong with behaviors that are difficult to control, such as nonverbal behavior. Sometimes, people are more biased than they think they are (Nosek).

Examples of bias research results from a number of different researchers.

  1. “About 70% of more than half a million Implicit Association Tests completed by citizens of 34 countries revealed expected implicit stereotypes associating science with males more than females. We discovered that nation-level implicit stereotypes predicted nation-level sex differences in 8th-grade science and mathematics achievement. Self-reported stereotypes did not provide additional predictive validity of the achievement gap. We suggest that implicit stereotypes and sex differences in science participation and performance are mutually reinforcing, contributing to the persistent gender gap in science engagement.”
  1. “In the race IATs [Implicit Association Test], respondents classified Black and White faces or names while classifying words of positive or negative valence. Overall, the observed IAT effect revealed respondents’ automatic preference for White relative to Black. For both name (d _ 0.71) and face (d _ 0.88) tasks, participants showed an automatic preference for White over Black. Although participants likewise showed preference for White over Black on the explicit measure, the magnitude of that effect was noticeably smaller (ds _ 0.27 and 0.36, respectively).”
  1. Using a team development simulation, Thomas-Hunt and Phillips found that “women were less influential when they possessed expertise, and having expertise decreased how expert others perceived them to be. Conversely, having expertise was relatively positive for men. These differences were reflected in group performance, as groups with a female expert underperformed groups with a male expert”.
  1.  “Although most research on the control of automatic prejudice has focused on the efficacy of deliberate attempts to suppress or correct for stereotyping, the reported experiments tested the hypothesis that automatic racial prejudice is subject to common social influence. In experiments involving actual interethnic contact, both tacit and expressed social influence reduced the expression of automatic prejudice, as assessed by two different measures of automatic attitudes. Moreover, the automatic social tuning effect depended on participant ethnicity. European Americans (but not Asian Americans) exhibited less automatic prejudice in the presence of a Black experimenter than a White experimenter (Experiments 2 and 4), although both groups exhibited reduced automatic prejudice when instructed to avoid prejudice (Experiment 3). Results are consistent with shared reality theory, which postulates that social regulation is central to social cognition” (Lowery, Hardin and Sinclair, abstract).
  1. “Gaertner and McLaughlin (1983) presented subjects with pairs of letter strings, requesting a yes judgment if both were words, and no otherwise. Using speed of yes responses to measure strength of existing associations between the two words in a pair, they found that White subjects responded faster to white-positive word pairs than to black-positive pairs (e.g., white-smart vs. black-smart)….These results occurred similarly for subjects who scored high and for ones who scored low on a direct (i.e., standard self-report) measure of race prejudice”. 
  1. “Uhlmann and Cohen (2005) found an interesting twist in job discrimination. Participants assigned male and female applicants to gender-stereotypical jobs. However, they did not view male and female applicants as having different strengths and weaknesses. Instead, they redefined the criteria for success at the job as requiring the specific credentials a candidate of the desired gender happened to have. Commitment to hiring criteria prior to disclosure of the applicant's gender eliminated discrimination, suggesting that bias in the construction of hiring criteria plays a causal role in discrimination.”

Good News. The good news from the research of Sinclair and others: “Although automatic attitudes were commonly assumed to be born of a lifetime of learning and to be thus virtually immutable…an emerging body of research suggests that they are quite malleable via a range of situational factors, mental strategies, and social motives” (Sinclair, et al. 2005).

Contact Reduces Prejudice. A UVa Top News Daily article reported on the work of Sinclair and others: “Mixing groups reduces prejudice, Sinclair said. This co-mingling needs the sanction of authorities and people must be on the same status level, with common goals and cooperation….The co-mingling of groups may reduce prejudice even if it is forced, said Sinclair, while forming close friendships across group lines is the best solution” (Kelly). That is a very basic argument for increasing faculty as well as student diversity.  

Most human beings have tendencies towards automatic or implicit bias. Those with hiring and promotion power need to be particularly aware of these veiled attitudes. As Brian Nosek notes: “Gaining insight into the mental operations that lead behavior astray of values is a precondition for predicting, understanding, and controlling implicit biases.”

Project Implicit is a Virtual Laboratory for the social and behavioral sciences designed to facilitate the research of implicit social cognition: cognitions, feelings, and evaluations that are not necessarily available to conscious awareness, conscious control, conscious intention, or self-reflection. Project Implicit comprises a network of laboratories, technicians, and research scientists at Harvard University, the University of Washington, and the University of Virginia” (Project Implicit, 2007c).

 
References

Dovidio, J.F., K. Kawakami, C. Johnson, B. Johnson and A. Howard. 1997. On the nature of prejudice: Automatic and controlled processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 33(5): 510-540. Retrieved on April 17, 2008 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=MImg&_imagekey=B6WJB-45KV10P-B-1&_cdi=6874&_user=709071&_orig=browse&_coverDate=09%2F30%2F1997&_sk=999669994&view=c&wchp=dGLbVzz-zSkWz&md5=af2969cff3f7781a02b38b2e6062b984&ie=/sdarticle.pdf

Fazio, R.H., J.R. Jackson; B.C. Dunton and C.J. Williams. 1995. Variability in automatic activation as an unobtrusive measure of racial attitudes: A bona fide pipeline? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(6): 1013-1027. Retrieved on April 17, 2008.

Because the online version of this journal uses timed/timed out sessions, we cannot give you a direct URL for the article (i.e., the URL changes with each session and each computer). We are hoping to get permission to post a link to a .pdf version on this Web site. In the meantime access is available to this journal, and the article, via VIRGO; once you are in the correct issue scroll down to article #3. We apologize for the inconvenience. Links to articles from all other journals are direct.

Gaertner, S.L. and J.P. McLaughlin. 1983. Racial stereotypes: Associations and ascriptions of positive and negative characteristics. Social Psychology Quarterly. 46(1): 23-30. Retrieved on February 3, 2008 from http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0190-2725%28198303%2946%3A1%3C23%3ARSAAAO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-K

Greenwald, A.G. and M.R. Banaji. 1995. Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review. 102(1): 4-27. Available at http://projectimplicit.net/articles.php

Kelly, M. 2003. Psychologists explore unconscious sources of racial prejudice. UVa Top News Daily. March 19, 2003. Retrieved on February 8, 2008 from http://www.virginia.edu/topnews/wilson_timothy.html  

Lowery, B.S., C.D. Hardin and S. Sinclair. 2001. Social influence effects
on automatic racial prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 81: 842–855. Retrieved on February 8, 2008.

Because the online version of this journal uses timed/timed out sessions, we cannot give you a direct URL for the article (i.e., the URL changes with each session and each computer). We are hoping to get permission to post a link to a .pdf version on this Web site. In the meantime access is available to this journal, and the article, via VIRGO; once you are in the correct issue scroll down to article #13. We apologize for the inconvenience. Links to articles from all other journals are direct.

Martin, C.P. 2003. Sinclair scrutinizes prejudice and stereotypes. Arts and Sciences. June. Charlottesville: University of Virginia. Retrieved on February 8, 2008 from http://magazine.clas.virginia.edu/x4898.xml

Nosek, B. 2006. Uncomfortable truths. Arts and Sciences. October. Charlottesville: University of Virginia. Retrieved on January 24, 2008 from http://magazine.clas.virginia.edu/x8600.xml

Nosek, B.A., M.R. Banaji and A.G. Greenwald. (2002). Harvesting implicit group attitudes and beliefs from a demonstration Web site. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 6(1),101-115. Available at http://projectimplicit.net/articles.php .

Nosek, B.A., F.L. Smyth, N. Sririam, N.M. Lindner, T. Devos, A. Ayala, Y. Bar-Anan, et al. 2009. National differences in gender-science stereotypes predict national sex differences in science and math achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(26): 10593-10597. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2705538/pdf/zpq10593.pdf

NSF ADVANCE, University of Rhode Island. 2007. Faculty recruitment handbook: A research-based guide for active diversity recruitment practices.  Retrieved on November 30, 2007 from http://www.uri.edu/advance/files/pdf/Recruit_Handbook_Web.pdf

Project Implicit. 2007a. Demonstration/research. Retrieved on February 2, 2008 https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ 

Project Implicit. 2007b. General information. Retrieved on January 28, 2008 from http://projectimplicit.net/generalinfo.php

Project Implicit. 2007c. What is Project Implicit? Retrieved on January 26, 2008 from http://projectimplicit.net/about.php

Sinclair, S. 2006. Faculty and student research with underrepresented populations. Retrieved on February 8, 2008 from http://www.virginia.edu/psychology/graduate/diversity/research.html#sinclair

Sinclair, S., B. Lowery., C. Hardin and A. Colangelo. 2005. Social tuning of automatic attitudes: The role of affiliative motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89: 583 – 592. Retrieved on February 8, 2008.

Because the online version of this journal uses timed/timed out sessions, we cannot give you a direct URL for the article (i.e., the URL changes with each session and each computer). We are hoping to get permission to post a link to a .pdf version on this Web site. In the meantime access is available to this journal, and the article, via VIRGO; once you are in the correct issue scroll down to article #14. We apologize for the inconvenience. Links to articles from all other journals are direct.

Thomas-Hunt, M.C. and K.W. Phillips. 2004. When what you know is not enough: The effects of gender on expert’s influence within work groups. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 30: 1585-1598. Retrieved on February 2, 2008 from http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/30/12/1585
 
Uhlmann, E. L. and Cohen, J. L. 2005. Constructed criteria: Redefining merit to justify discrimination. Psychological Science. 16(6): 474-480. Retrieved on AUgust 2, 2010 from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&hid=119&sid=362b08eb-27b3-4a87-9836-a9cfae0a1f96%40sessionmgr111

Wittenbrink, B., C.M. Judd and B. Park. 1997. Evidence for racial prejudice at the implicit level and its relationship with questionnaire measures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 72(2): 262-74. Retrieved on April 17, 2008.

Because the online version of this journal uses timed/timed out sessions, we cannot give you a direct URL for the article (i.e., the URL changes with each session and each computer). We are hoping to get permission to post a link to a .pdf version on this Web site. In the meantime access is available to this journal, and the article, via VIRGO; once you are in the correct issue scroll down to article #4. We apologize for the inconvenience. Links to articles from all other journals are direct.

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