‘Superstar’ researcher, author of book on implicit bias to speak


On Nov. 18, Dr. Mahzarin Banaji will speak about hidden biases at the 25th annual Harrington Distinguished Visiting Professor Lecture Series to help individuals better understand themselves, other people and the communities in which they are a part of.

Each year, the Harrington Speaker Lecture Series is made possible by the endowment given to the Department of Psychology from Kathryn Grover Harrington & Robert A. Harrington, said Dr. Stephanie Richman, assistant professor of psychology.

The Harrington fund has been established at BW for at least 20 years and the Harrington’s are also alumni of the institution who had the goal of bringing well known speakers to the department when they made their donation, Richman said. Richman has also been planning the Harrington events for the past four years.

“As a faculty, we will meet together and talk about who are some prominent psychologists in the field, said Richman. Typically we tend to recruit people who have been in the field for a while so they’ve made kind of significant contributions to psychology,” said Richman.

In the past, the department of psychology has brought many recognizable psychologists to campus. Some of the more famous psychologists include Dr. Philip Zimbardo, of the Stanford Prison Experiment, during the 2000-2001 academic year and Dr. Walter Mischel, of the Marshmallow Test, during the 2016-2017 academic year, said Richman.

When it comes to Banaji, “she’s just someone who is like a superstar in the field and [BW] thought this would be so great,” said Richman.

Banaji has also written a book, “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People,” that is very popular and is designed for all audiences regardless of their background in psychology, said Richman. Having Banaji’s special topic expertise in hidden biases makes this material relevant to everyone regardless of their field of study, said Richman.

According to the flyer, “Dr. Banaji’s lecture will reveal mental blindspots that can compromise our personal and professional decisions if they are left unattended.

She will advance ideas about where such biases come from and how to think about ‘outsmarting’ our own minds in order to reach the goals we have chosen for ourselves with deliberation.”

The whole incentive for bringing Dr. Banaji onto campus to speak about hidden biases is to have “psychology students see and learn about people who started where they were and ended up doing some amazing things in life,” Nancy Gussett, associate professor of psychology said. “For the general public, understanding your own and others behaviors is so important in so many areas of life,” Gussett said.

Due to the different levels of experience and variety of audience members, unique sessions will be available for both groups. For students, classes that conflict with the event times will be cancelled to give students the opportunity to attend.

In addition, there will be two sessions offered that discuss the same material to give students enough time to attend as well, said Richman.

There is also a lunch session where selected high achieving psychology majors will have the opportunity to discuss things such as research with Dr. Banaji more closely, said Richman.

For the general audience members, “the evening talk is kind of the main thing and that is the one that is open to the public and anyone that wants to come,” Richman said.

Invitations are also sent out to different departments at BW and the neighboring colleges in the area, said Richman. The main difference between the student sessions vs the general sessions is the language used to describe topics.

The goal is to keep the material relative and coherent to everyone who wishes to attend “so that they don’t need a background in psychology to understand,” said Richman.

The event takes place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 18 in Sandstone 3 of Strosacker Hall. For more information, visit bw.edu/Harrington-lecture.