Want to learn more about unconscious influences? 

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Prologue to This American Life episode 544, “Batman The prologue reviews a few experiments that have demonstrated how expectations about performance measurably affect students and their teachers, children, soldiers and their trainers, and even rats.

The entire show is worth listening to;  the main story is about Daniel Kish, a blind man who navigates the world by clicking with his tongue.  This echo-location provides him so much information that he doesn’t just walk around town independently; he climbs trees, rides bikes, and hikes up mountains.  In fact, he’s better at all those things that I am—with full 20/20 vision when wearing contacts/glasses.

Straight Talk for White Men I hate the title of this column; it’s straight talk for all of us.   The column references several studies that demonstrate how subliminal cues and societal messages affect our actions:

  • how background music influences what wine we purchase,
  • why interviewing on a sunny day gives you an advantage over candidates interviewed on rainy days, and
  • how we judge the same behaviors and characteristics differently based on the race or gender of the actors.

It’s humbling.  We want to believe we are immune to superfluous influences—and I think we can be—but it requires attention and effort.  These studies give us all the more reason to cultivate greater awareness and mindfulness and to slow down, so that we can notice what’s going on and why we may sometimes need to reconsider our first reaction.

The Science of Your Racist Brain (Do article titles have to be incendiary to get us to click on them?)  This article provides useful information on what implicit bias is, how it is reflected in our actions, the brain mechanisms that help create it (the amygdala), and how another part of our brains, the frontal cortex, can help us correct our amygdala’s erroneous judgments and correlations.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell I admit, I haven’t read the book in several years.  But the takeaways that have stuck with me are:

  • our brains are incredibly adept at very quickly, unconsciously processing a lot of information and coming to conclusions based on prior experience;
  • because their subconscious brains have been well-trained over years of experience and study, experts can often reach accurate conclusions very quickly—in the blink of an eye; but,
  • our subconscious mind (including the amygdala) can be mis-educated; implicit racism and sexism are two examples of this type mis-training.
Alexandra Marchosky
Alexandra Marchosky
I coach individuals and organizations to do and be better by more fully living their values.
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