The Humean Stain, Part 1

July 2nd, 2018 · 58 mins 27 secs

About this Episode

On April 12, 2018, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, two African-American men, were arrested for trespassing at a Philadelphia Starbucks. They were waiting for another person to join them for a meeting, when a manager called the police because they hadn't made a purchase. In the face of ensuing controversy, Starbucks closed stores nationwide one afternoon at the end of May in order to hold anti-bias training sessions for employees. As in this case and elsewhere, the topic of implicit racial bias has captured many imaginations.

Implicit bias has been studied by many social psychologists, and one particular measure, the Implicit Association Test (or IAT) has often been used in that research. It has also been used by practitioners, often for purposes of raising participants' awareness of their own biases. And millions have completed IAT's online at the Project Implicit website.

In this episode, I talk with six people who have all thought about the IAT, with the conversation covering such topics as (a) what kinds of mental associations might be revealed by performance on the IAT, (b) how reliable is it as a measure, and (c) whether or not the research debates surrounding the IAT are an example of good science. My guests are psychologists Calvin Lai, Brian Nosek, Mike Olson, Keith Payne, and Simine Vazire, as well as journalist Jesse Singal.

--Scientific American Frontiers episode on implicit bias
--Project Implicit (where you can take an IAT)
--Brian Nosek's departmental web page
--Calvin Lai's departmental web page
--Michael Olson's departmental web page
--Keith Payne's departmental web page
--Simine Vazire's departmental web page
--"Psychology's favorite tool for measuring racism isn't up to the job" (Jesse Singal, in The Cut)
--"Statistically small effects of the Implicit Association Test can have societally large effects" (Greenwald, Banaji, & Nosek, 2015)
--"Using the IAT to predict ethnic and racial discrimination: Small effects sizes of unknown societal significance" (Oswald, Mitchell, Blanton, Mitchell, & Tetlock, 2015)
--A summary of David Hume's thoughts on the association of ideas

Cover art credit: "Still Life with Bottles, Wine, and Cheese," John F. Francis (1857; public domain, from Wikimedia Commons, copyright tag: PD-US)