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Mahzarin Banaji, Harvard University -- UC Merced Distinguished Cognitive Scientist Lecture

September 22, 2017 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Harvard University Professor Mahzarin Banaji will deliver September's Distinguished Cognitive Scientist lecture, entitled "Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People." The lecture begins at 4 p.m. Sept. 22 in SSB 170. Good people intend well. We intend to make professional choices and decisions in a manner that is error-free, fair and in the interest of our organizations. But research from the past 50 years has challenged the possibility that we actually do so. Specifically, we now know that our actions can be inconsistent with our values and obstruct the very goals we strive for as individuals and professionals. We now know that these errors are a function of our evolution, the architecture of our minds and the social learning we are so adept at acquiring. Our values and behavior deviate from each other because our decisions are driven by “unconscious” preferences and beliefs. The session is participatory, involving educational and even entertaining hands-on exercises. It is geared toward providing insights into how our minds work, and to reveal the often surprising and even perplexing manner in which we make decisions – about hiring and promotion, about client relationships and how we run our teams and about how we think about our own leadership. The purpose of the seminar is to reveal mental blind spots that can compromise our personal and professional decisions if they are left unattended. Professor Banaji will advance ideas about where such bias comes from and how to think about “outsmarting” our own minds in order to reach the goals we have chosen for ourselves with deliberation. Professor Banaji was born and raised in India, received her Ph.D. from Ohio State University and did postdoctoral work at the University of Washington. From 1986-2001 she taught at Yale University, where she was Reuben Post Halleck Professor of Psychology. Since then, she has been the Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. She also served as the first Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard from 2002-2008, and as the George A. and Helen Dunham Cowan Chair in Human Dynamics at the Santa Fe Institute from 2011-2015. Banaji was named Harvard College Professor for excellence in undergraduate teaching and previously won Yale’s Lex Hixon Prize for Teaching Excellence. She serves as senior advisor to the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard on Faculty Development and is the chair of the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. For more information on her research and teaching, see


Student Services Building, 170

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Graduate Division