A Look at the Research Behind Implicit Biases with Wash U Professor Calvin Lai

By on May 30, 2018

From St. Louis Public Radio:  In April, the arrest of two black men at a Starbucks store in Philadelphia sparked outrage across the U.S. The incident prompted the company’s announcement that it would close thousands of stores for one afternoon this spring in order to conduct nationwide training on implicit biases.

As that training got underway on Tuesday, St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh talked with Washington University’s Calvin Lai, who is the director of research for Project Implicit.

An assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences, Lai is interested in thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness or control. Those thoughts and feelings can influence how we make sense of and judge other people, Lai said, and are reflective of “both the culture and the person.”

“A lot of these implicit biases seem to form from a lifetime of experience with exposure to cultural stereotypes,” he explained. “But at the same time, they kind of reflect your personal experiences as well – the family that you grew up with, the friends that you have, the types of movies and TV shows that you watch.”

Lai’s recent commentary on implicit-bias training – exploring the research behind it as well as its limitations and possibilities for reducing racial discrimination and bias – was published in The Conversation.

He said that most of his own research is focused on whether these biases can be changed or undone.

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