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Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do

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From one of the world's leading experts on unconscious racial bias, a personal examination of one of the central controversies and culturally powerful issues of our time, and its influence on contemporary race relations and criminal justice.

We do not have to be racist to be biased. With a perspective that is scientific, investigative, and personal, Jennifer L. Eberhardt offers a reasoned look into the effects of implicit racial bias, ranging from the subtle to the dramatic. Racial bias can lead to disparities in education, employment, housing, and the criminal justice system--and then those very disparities further reinforce the problem. In Biased, Eberhardt reveals how even when we are not aware of bias and genuinely wish to treat all people equally, ingrained stereotypes infect our visual perception, attention, memory, and behavior.

Eberhardt's extensive work as a consultant to law enforcement, as well as a researcher with unprecedented access to data, including footage from police officers' body-worn cameras, informs every aspect of her book and makes it much more than a work of social psychology. Her research occurs not just in the laboratory but in police departments, courtrooms, prisons, boardrooms, and on the street. Interviews are interwoven with memories and stories from Eberhardt's own life and family. She offers practical suggestions for reform, and takes the reader behind the scenes to police departments implementing her suggestions.

Refusing to shy away from the tragic consequences of prejudice, Eberhardt addresses how racial bias is not the fault of, or restricted to, a few "bad apples" in police departments or other institutions. We can see evidence of bias at all levels of society in media, education, and business practices. In Biased, Eberhardt reminds us that racial bias is a human problem--one all people can play a role in solving.

350 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 26, 2019

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About the author

Jennifer L. Eberhardt

3 books167 followers
Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt is a professor of psychology at Stanford and a recipient of a 2014 MacArthur “genius” grant. She has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was named one of Foreign Policy‘s 100 Leading Global Thinkers. She is co-founder and co-director of SPARQ (Social Psychological Answers to Real-World Questions), a Stanford Center that brings together researchers and practitioners to address significant social problems.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,033 reviews
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,697 reviews14.1k followers
July 18, 2019
A book for anyone who wants to know how biases are formed, how they manifest and even how our brains process them. There are examples, even from the authors own life, and studies that show how biases are used in everyday life. Statistics to back up the authors assertions, and experiments that prove the validity of the statistics. How to counter these biases, by education, training in empathy for professionals like the police, where they are daily confronted with situations that could prove deadly.

I was raised in Chicago and was well aware of much that was written within. There were places we were told to stay far away from for our own safety. Never really explained but the message was clear regardless. The author also takes us to the Charlottesville incident, so awful, so much hatred. How education is lacking in discussing past history. So many school children do not know about the Holocaust, don't know what Auschwitz was. Slavery glossed over. One can never forget what one never knew. To me this is a shameful admission.

"Our experiences in the world seep into our brain over time, and without our awareness they conspire to reshape the workings of our mind."

"The mistake we keep making-the mistake we all keep making-is in thinking our work is done. That whatever heroic effort we've made will keep moving us forward. That whatever progress we've seen will keep us from sliding back to burn crosses and hiding Torah scrolls."

&In truth, bias has been biding it's time in an implicit world-in a place where we need not acknowledge it to ourselves or to others, even as it touches our soul and drives our behavior."
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,659 followers
April 6, 2019
One of the best books about implicit bias I've ever read. It's both personal and data-based, warm and inviting where it needs to be and cold and honest in other parts. I would recommend this to any organization or person or group who wants to understand how bias works and how it's ok--it's not your fault.
Profile Image for Caroline .
411 reviews561 followers
March 10, 2021
What is “color bias”? In this book, social scientist Jennifer L. Eberhardt defines that and examines its insidiousness and wide-reaching consequences. This book doesn’t focus on bias in a general sense; it isn't a deep dive into the anthropological or neuro-scientific basis. It’s instead about bias against people of color, with most attention on black people specifically.

Color bias differs from racism. The former is a personal prejudice against someone based on the color of their skin. The latter is more complex--a pervasive systemic problem that privileges whiteness in every area of life, in both obvious and very subtle ways. Color bias powers racism.

Eberhardt acknowledged that humans are wired for bias for evolutionary reasons. All people have biases, big and small, consequential and inconsequential. However, she warned that such knowledge can lead to fatalistic thinking: If I’m wired this way, what’s the point in trying to change? In fact, we’re not helpless to change. The solution is awareness, which leads to policy changes (such as schools diversifying) and personal changes (such as whites feeling willing to send their kids to those diverse schools). These big and small changes are what Eberhardt is ultimately hoping for with her book, and via her teaching as a social-science professor.

Biased has a wide scope, discussing color bias in criminal justice, schooling, jobs, and living situations, to name a few areas. Like many social-justice non-fictions, its ample research is complemented by illustrative anecdotes, some of which are drawn from Eberhardt’s own life.

The book goes in directions that surprised me. It has a social-psychology slant, which allowed Eberhardt to elaborate from her starting point of a general societal ill--such as police corruption--to the more individual. The connection is undeniable: Our societal ills start on a much more basic level, with personal bias.

Seemingly insignificant details matter a lot. Physical features matter. Cultural associations matter. Names matter. Color always matters. Those personal biases have serious real-world consequences. Black criminals with facial features that skew traditionally white are more likely to receive lenient punishments. Job-hunters with typical white names get 36% more callbacks than do those with typical black names. White families trying to book a rental via Airbnb are rejected significantly less often than black families. Nextdoor has become notorious for its color bias as whites are quick to post “bewares” about blacks in the neighborhood. Literary and pop culture depictions send unconscious messages that solidify bias: We clothe our villains in black and saviors in white because we associate black with malice and white with virtue.

Identifying these problems has led to some reform: Increasingly, police departments are receiving “bias training” (with some training run by Eberhardt). One of the most dramatic examples of such reform concerns the Oakland Police Department, which went from stunning brutality toward black residents in the 1990s to functional policing. Airbnb and Nextdoor enacted some policies to make things fairer. The policies could go further--Nextdoor in particular remains toxic--but it’s heartening that CEOs, regardless of motivation, worked toward a solution.

I got a lot out of Biased and think it’s a good complement to many of today’s anti-racism books. It does have some weaknesses, however. Organization is unfortunately a little disjointed, as Eberhardt jumped from one point to the next and then sometimes circled back chapters later. Anecdotes about her life are relevant yet often feel awkwardly pasted in, as if she liked them so much that she was dead set on finding a place for them. One chapter detailing what happened during the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville is a curious addition that doesn’t fit.

Additionally, since the book is focused primarily on color bias, the generalness of its title is misleading. Eberhardt did talk briefly, though compellingly, about bias toward women, but that kind of bias demands deeper exploration. Nevertheless, on the problem of color bias, Eberhardt achieved what she set out to do, and the compelling, thought-provoking research of this book makes it a true eye-opener. Despite a scattered organization, her points are well-argued and logical, and she covered the topic of color bias thoroughly.

Further reading:
“Why saying “I don’t see race at all” just makes racism worse”
Profile Image for Monica.
518 reviews156 followers
November 7, 2019
Amazing book! The writing was clear and easy to follow. I usually stay away from non-fiction for a variety of reasons, but this one is definitely worth your time. Although it's very specific towards law enforcement, it was an eye-opener to me.

As most people, I have always declared I have no prejudice. This book allowed me to see there are many layers of biases we all have buried in our unconscious. And rather than focus on the guilt of that, this story focuses on how to become aware. With that knowledge, we can move forward and make better decisions in all situations.

Thanks so much to the publishers for my free copy of this book and to Goodreads for facilitating the giveaway.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,806 followers
April 30, 2020
I have to say that I see where the writer is going/coming from here and I agree. The idea here is that we have certain societal Biases that we carry with us and are generally unaware of.

I agree this is true. However the writer (I believe) needs to stop and "possibly" (and I know I may annoy some with what I say here) as I was saying "possibly" needs to become aware of her own innate biases...

Just a thought, consider as you read the book.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,511 reviews3,675 followers
March 11, 2019
This is the kind of informative nonfiction that I like to see -- clearly written, incorporating broad statistics and study findings with concrete examples, correlating arguments to current or historical events, and the author's use of personal anecdotes or stories told to her to make the content of her work really connect on a personal level. This is a really well executed book on implicit bias that threads the needle between acknowledging that implicit bias is something that we all inherit & are therefore not personally to blame for the problem's origin while still pushing individuals to do their part to change themselves & the world around them. A few of the stories really stuck with me, particularly the arc of her own son's understanding of his own perceptions of black men & how he is increasingly at the receiving end of those perceptions from others as a young black man.

Would definitely recommend! I could see this working well for a book club type environment
Profile Image for Andy.
1,353 reviews462 followers
May 10, 2020
I've recently read several books on this important topic and this is the best one so far. The author tells personal anecdotes but they are pertinent to the points she is trying to illustrate from the objective research. When she describes her experience working with groups like police forces, she has believable tales of success. She does a good job covering many issues without getting bogged down.

The ending was disappointing however; I had hoped for evidence on what works to combat prejudices, but instead she explains that no one knows because it's not in any one's financial interest to figure out that what they do doesn't work. Since she is an academician who does this sort of work, it seems to me she could at least evaluate the impact of her own efforts somehow.
Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
671 reviews384 followers
August 22, 2019
It is alarming how much of our biases are subconsciously ingrained in us not only from birth, but from our culture as well.

While not exactly groundbreaking, this book has a lot of heart and helps lay out the facts and statistics.

I hope by becoming more aware of ingrained biases we all can push to resist structural bias as the norm.
Profile Image for Rossdavidh.
508 reviews143 followers
August 30, 2020
I am a little conflicted about this book. Which, given the emotionally explosive nature of the topic, is not so surprising.

Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt is a professor of psychology at Stanford University. She got her PhD from Harvard. She was chosen in 2014 for a MacArthur "genius grant". She is, quite clearly, not just an African-American with opinions, she has a lot of detailed and scientific knowledge about how bias works. She is also, though, an African-American with opinions; she tells the story of being arrested the day before she was due to walk across the stage to receive her Ph.D., including the part where she was slammed onto the police car and handcuffed, and charged with resisting arrest. She learned that day that if you are allowed only one phone call from jail, it can be very helpful if the person you call is a high-ranking official at Harvard. She was quickly released.

She also knows how to tell a good story, and how to help the reader to challenge their own assumptions. She waits until the end of her story of being arrested, to tell you that the officer who originally pulled her over, who escalated what should have been a routine traffic stop until there were five police cars involved and she was dragged off to jail, was also black. Ouch.

Eberhardt is, clearly, an enormously effective writer. She is also good at remaining even-handed and rational, even when discussing extraordinarily emotional topics. She is often called in to advise police departments that are reeling from the aftermath of one video or another of a young black man being shot to death by police. If you think about the kind of person who chooses a job where she often has to walk into a room full of police officers who are not happy, who don't know her and don't probably trust her, it reveals that she is not a person who is just looking for the easy way in life.

Not every episode in her book is so emotionally heavy. The chapter about her moving, as an adolescent, to a high school where everyone else was white, was pretty entertaining. "I'd had no practice recognizing white faces. They all looked alike to me. I could describe in detail the face of the black woman I happened to pass in a shopping mall. But I could not pick out from a crowd the white girl who sat next to me in English class every day."

I could not shake the feeling, though, as I read the book, that I was waiting for it to get started. One tale after another, which brought home the real human cost of bias, how it distorts relations between races and between minorities and law enforcement (and banks, and schools, and their neighbors, and etc.), and why we need to better understand how to eliminate it where we can, and reduce the impact where we cannot. Each one a perfect introduction to the real part of the book, which is where we talk about what works, and what doesn't. Well, we did get glimpses, but not much.

There was a paragraph which mentioned that racial sensitivity training was not as effective, in reducing police shootings of black men, as additional training on how to recognize quickly a gun (vs. a wallet or a phone or whatever). In other words, the way to make a police officer better at not shooting young black men, is to make them better at not shooting anyone (who isn't actually a threat). Well that sounds both useful to know, and not obvious until after you've been told it. But, it was a rare bit of actionable knowledge in a sea of well-written, thoughtful and emotionally powerful stories. But, you know, I wouldn't have picked up a book of this sort, in order to figure out whether or not bias or racism was a problem. I doubt anyone would; you choose a book of this sort to read when you've already decided that it is a problem. I'm also not the type to want to just stoke my anger, for the fun of being angry. Despite what my young adult male mind might have thought, "more anger" is almost never the solution to a complex problem. If anger were sufficient to make progress on this, we would have made a lot more progress in the years since the Rodney King beating was captured on videotape. But that was 1991, almost thirty years ago, so clearly anger is not what we're lacking, here.

It may be that Dr. Eberhardt is thinking that the typical reader is more interested in emotionally stirring tales than rational analysis, and so she saves her rational analysis and actionable results for the departments and corporations that hire her as a consultant. If so, regarding the typical reader, perhaps she is correct. But, it's not what I was looking for. I know this is a bit unfair, but I found myself comparing the book, not entirely favorably, to Malcolm Gladwell's "Talking To Strangers", which takes on many of the same topics. Gladwell, though, leavens the emotional tales with a lot more data, and a lot more published research, some of which does not point entirely in the direction you might expect (which is when it is most useful).

Another glimpse we get, which is quite similar to a point that is repeated several times in Gladwell's recent book as well, is that there are times when relying on a person's intuition is part of the problem. Some of Eberhardt's work (e.g. with the web company Nextdoor) comes from the fact that people are more likely to be swayed by racial bias when they trust their intuition, and more likely to be able to get beyond that bias when you introduce some "friction", which usually means time for rational thought, into the process. She suggests that the widely used slogan of "if you see something, say something", be changed to "if you see something suspicious, say something specific". It is not fashionable, in recent decades, to suggest that relying on your intuition could be a mistake, but telling police officers, or the general populace, that their intuition about who is trouble, is essentially guaranteeing that young males, and especially young black males, will be raised in an environment with an adversarial relationship with the law. It's a good insight, but it's more an example of what NOT to do, than of what to do.

In the last chapter, she addresses the root of the problem that has prevented us from making as much progress (any progress?) as we wanted to since 1991: we don't know what works, because most people have no incentive to know.

"...the value of [implicit bias] training, with all its variables, is often hard to quantify. The vast majority of implicit bias trainings are never rigorously evaluated, in part because measuring their worth is hard. There are no agreed-upon metrics developed by scientists for evaluating training effectiveness. Should the training lead to an immediate reduction in implicit bias? That's a tall order considering that these implicit associations have been practiced over a lifetime. What would a reduction in implicit bias even look like?...Even beyond the difficulty of evaluating the effectiveness of training are the high financial stakes involved with declaring success or failure. Bias training is a fast-growing for-profit business, and finding fault with results could affect the bottom line of the trainers."

There, unfortunately, is the crux of the matter. We have a very great number of people getting angry, a large number of people who want a quick solution so that they can get the heat off of their department, and a smaller number of people who want to be able to plausibly claim that they are offering a solution, so that they can get a paycheck. No one involved has both the knowledge and the incentives, to restructure how our society handles things like job interviews, police policy, bank loan applications, and all the many other systemic sources of bias that Dr. Eberhardt (quite effectively) describes for us in this book. In order to make progress, you have to have people who are both capable of finding out what works (with the resources to do so), and the willingness to say what doesn't work. We have, in the last several decades, not made a whole lot of progress on this particular front, not even from 2009-2016, when we had black Americans as both President and Attorney General. Representation of blacks (and other minorities) among the wealthy and powerful has greatly increased; the opportunities and dangers of being a poor minority in America, have not improved nearly so much. To get a better result, we need to have a better understanding of what works, and what doesn't, and at the moment there aren't very many people who are in the business of actually figuring that out. Dr. Eberhardt appears to be one of the people who are in the process of doing that, but she seems a lot more interested in telling us why it matters that we fix this problem (which everyone who chooses to read her books is already convinced of), than she does in telling us how to fix this problem.

But, despite all that, it is certainly the case that we are better off having researchers such as Dr. Eberhardt investigating the issue, and if her book was a little more story-heavy, and a little less data-heavy, than I prefer, it was still orders of magnitude better in this respect than most of what we hear, see, and read on this topic from our newsmedia.
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
1,993 reviews208 followers
August 25, 2020
Kudos to J. Eberhardt! This is a book everyone should read. It makes sense, hits you in your tender places and yet isn't about guilting a person into change. Rather, she does a deft and able job of showing you where it comes from (which isn't the focus, so a reader doesn't spend a bunch of time feeling defensive) and how to see the biases, how to recognize them. From there, she shows chapter by chapter how persons with particular prejudices are led to particular choice-making processes, which in time become habit, and a way of life. Untangling these, or not, is a choice, too, and one that is not just a one-time event, but is more a life-long process.

She does an even and fair-handed consideration of the major POVs. I especially appreciated her academic and professional background on this topic, and that the information she provides is further firmed up by her day-to-day work. There's a passion for the work, and real life experiences she brings to it that are compelling.

Again, I say: Everyone should read this book.
Profile Image for Emily Meacham.
277 reviews
June 18, 2019
A very well-written book, but my moderate rating is only because it was not the book that I thought it was going to be. I was hoping for more of an analysis of "why" we are implicitly biased and how we might try to overcome that, but this book was more of a chronicle of examples of implicit bias. And that's an excellent subject, albeit incredibly and overwhelmingly sad and frustrating. I was just looking for some "answers" and help as to how we can start to work on our own implicit biases, and I didn't get much on that subject.
Profile Image for Cynda .
1,253 reviews142 followers
July 22, 2019
Read with GR group Nonfiction Book Club.

Why a paltry 3 stars? This book was not written with someone with the awareness I have. I am more than familiar with the concept of in-grouping/out-group. I am a woman of indeterminate ethnicity.

However, I did not find the book a complete bore. I learned of the existence of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice operated by the Equal Justice Initiative.
Profile Image for La La.
976 reviews126 followers
May 1, 2021
I would give this six stars if I could. It's the best anti-racism book I have read so far. It's by a Black author and her message is imparted with no finger-pointing and a good helping of hope.

It reminded me of this quote by Ruth Bader Ginsburg...

"Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."
Profile Image for Tangled in Text.
853 reviews21 followers
April 24, 2019
This book started off great. It was fresh and thought-provoking but it seemed as it neared the end to remain focused on one race and not the sense of general bias like the first half. I am a nerd for all the studies and test results though so I remained pretty giddy throughout.

I loved the analogies so much so I worked them into conversations with friends and family during the week I was reading this. I loved the example that a bias is actually a proven mental shortcoming. Our brains focus on what they deem important and fade out everything we don’t come in contact with often.

That can be put towards race if we were raised in a family of one race and that is all we were surrounded by we would be able to more easily distinguish their characteristics and other races might take longer to spot the differences. That same thought process has been proven in different situations as well like a preschool teacher can more quickly tell the different between toddlers because they spend most of their time surrounded by them, but someone like me panics when I see several kids and might think they all look alike. The study results were fascinating to even test theses biases with interracial families or even a family that adopts an older kid of a different race.

A real life example of this that I thought was fascinating was a bunch of black kids in China town figured out this bias years before any studies proved the results. The teenagers would snatch the purses from old Asian ladies and they wouldn’t even be wearing a mask because they knew when a line up was done, the old ladies never were able to identify who they were only a foot away from earlier that day because they complained they all looked alike. This type of bias though led to profiling as in China town all older women began to fear black males in general and that is when the problems arise.
Profile Image for Betsy.
108 reviews22 followers
June 11, 2021
This was an excellent, thought provoking book. The author, Jennifer Eberhardt is a professor at Stanford, and writes in an academic but approachable way. She includes both research findings on racial bias, and helpful stories, many from her own life and experience as well as discussions with police officers, prison inmates, her Uber driver in Charlottesville, and more.

She believes that most people aren’t actively trying to be racists, but because of bias, often act in ways that harm others, particularly black people. She includes a story of a black police officer who, while under cover, profiled his own reflection as a “suspicious character.”

Dr. Eberhardt stressed that people often make biased and discriminatory decisions when they’re rushed, anxious or scared. Slowing down can help. She also pointed out that diverse teams are more effective, and usually come to better solutions, but they’re not always the happiest or the most comfortable. It can be difficult and stretching to hear others voices. But, that effort is worthwhile.

I wish she had included more thoughts on ways to overcome racial bias. But, such a complicated and sensitive issue can’t be addressed in “three easy steps!”

I appreciated that she pointed out that much anti-bias education is produced to as a business to sell to the corporate world, and it’s effectiveness is not always clear. The work is vital, but what are best practices?

Overall, this was thought provoking and valuable read. I hope she writes more.
Profile Image for Jimmy.
Author 6 books203 followers
January 15, 2022
We are all biased to some degree. That is part of the problem and maybe the key to understanding the solution. It will require effort at many levels. And perhaps some acceptance. Much of it is beyond our control and our ability to change it to any great degree.
Profile Image for Katie/Doing Dewey.
1,060 reviews204 followers
December 16, 2020
Summary: This was everything I want from pop psychology or books on race -  a great blend of personal experience and expertly presented research that changed how I see the world.

I don't understand how this book on subconscious bias isn't on all the recent reading lists on racism or making more of a splash for being a fantastic work of pop psychology. Within the first few chapters, I'd learned enough about how race and age impact face recognition to totally change my understanding of the world. Similar revelations were scattered throughout. This was the perfect blend of the author's personal experiences, her interviews with others, and her expert summary of related research. That's enough that I'd wholeheartedly recommend this book to any one interested in reading on psychology or race, but I'll tell you a little more about what made me love this book.

While I considered whether the author was being too kind to people, letting us off the hook for not better controlling our subconscious minds, she gave me a new sympathy for people who might truly be making honest mistakes. I think that's useful for my ability to have a productive conversation with someone who comes across as racist to me. However, the author also has a thoughtful, timely chapter on the white supremacists rioting in Charlottesville and how subconscious bias can spill over into active racism, which she clearly identifies as a distinct phenomenon. She does also clearly indicate that we all can and should fight our own biases.

The author even presented some larger social interventions that help blunt the impact of subconscious bias. She presents solutions that could reduce the impact of race in critical areas, from policing to education. I can't tell you how rare I've found it to read a book about a social problem that provides some answers! It made me feel hopeful. It also made me want to keep her book on hand as a reference. As I get more involved in local politics, I'd love to take any opportunity I can to push for the ideas presented here to be put into practice. Another favorite nonfiction of the year that I'd highly recommend.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey
98 reviews23 followers
August 24, 2020
Forget about all the NYT nonfiction bestsellers of the moment – THIS is the book about racial bias that everyone should read.

The author, Jennifer Eberhardt, obviously cares more about data than about ideology. She is not without her biases – no one is – but she is noticeably conscientious in her scholarship. She regularly makes note of possible confounding variables in the research she cites. Her only goal seems to be to teach people about the world around them, the world inside them, and how these interact, as illuminated by sociological and psychological study.

What really makes her a standout is her utter lack of explicit personal racism. Where other authors blame and shame while hurling snake-oil bombs in all directions, Eberhardt is an equal-opportunity empathizer who only wants to get at the truth responsibly and use it to make the world more fair.

If you read Biased, which I hope you do, you will get a decent introduction to how bias works and what its effects can be in policing, justice, education, and employment. All the studies she cites are listed in the back. Eberhardt writes from a squarely leftwing perspective, and does not always consider other explanations for the phenomena she describes. (For example, in studying differences in the school discipline of black and white students, she cites studies that control for economic class, but not for fatherlessness. I don’t know if such a study exists, but it’s clear to me that it should be studied, or at least noted.) You will also learn of the kinds of interventions that actually work to shrink the effects of bias. These remedies are, I emphasize, based upon what the data show to be successful, and not upon ideology. And although she does not draw attention to this truth, every single one of the effective policies she describes is grounded in individualism, universalism, and empathy.

Biased isn’t perfect and there is plenty in it to argue with, but that’s okay. I wish all books on such charged subjects were written with this attention to fairness and nuance.
Profile Image for Graeme Newell.
173 reviews44 followers
July 31, 2022
I enjoyed this book. The Stanford researcher shares a plethora of research studies on the topic of bias. She also shares her own personal story of how it has affected her own life.

Much of the information she presents has been covered in previous books on the topic and I found the book a little bit self absorbed. I wanted to hear more stories about other people and not just her own personal journey. This was a cross between a memoir and a synopsis of research on the topic.
Profile Image for Dan Connors.
315 reviews42 followers
January 28, 2020
Having grown up during the days of civil rights demonstrations and Martin Luther King, I had thought that we had come a longer way on race. Schools seem less segregated, interracial couples are not a huge deal anymore, and we elected a black president in 2008. The new rise of hate groups and racism since President Obama was elected makes me wonder if we've made any progress at all. There's been some progress, but as white people begin to feel more threatened, we've all fallen backwards on race.

According to polls, 55% of white people honestly believe that they are victims of racial discrimination. They hear about minorities getting preferential treatment anecdotally and globalize it as happening everywhere. Confirmation bias keeps them from even seeing the everyday biases that people of color face. White voters gave Donald Trump a huge 57-37 advantage in the 2016 election based on this anger and fear of being displaced. As a white person myself, I am not perfect by any means and I've struggled with our history of oppression and blindness to the bias that we take for granted against racial minorities.

Jennifer Eberhardt is one of the nation's foremost authorities on racial bias. She has a doctorate in psychology and has conducted numerous studies, detailed in this book, of how prevalent our racial biases are even if we won't admit it. In her book, Dr. Eberhardt goes back into the history of American racial biases and explores how we got here and what we can do about it.

The huge takeaway for me from this book is that we should give up trying to be a color-blind society. Corporations, governments, and other large groups try to pretend race doesn't exist and produce lofty mission statements that tout diversity, inclusion, and color-blind policies. Despite these policies and statements, racial biases still exist, twisting our views of law and order, politics, housing and education. Instead, the author asks people to accept the obvious- that races exist and our brains are wired to notice them. Not only that but our brains come up with shortcuts and stereotypes on an unconscious level that guide our everyday behavior without us noticing them. Acknowledging these biases robs them of their power over us. The second step after acknowledging race is accepting it and moving on. African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and Caucasians all look differently and sometimes have different behaviors. Our brains are strong enough to move beyond the stereotypes, but we have to make an effort to do so.

This book is full of depressing tales of the harmful effects that can result from racial discrimination. The author uses scientific studies to show how unconscious racial bias shows up in all sorts of situations. Jennifer Eberhardt, an African-American woman, speaks from her own experiences of racial bias, including an arrest after being pulled over by a white policeman. She interviews several experts in the field and goes into detail about recent events like the Charlottesville protests and Terrence Crutcher shooting to bring the stories and emotions alive. She taught a class inside of San Quentin prison and the details from her students and their views on race are very touching.

Here are a few other takeaways that made me think:
- We are wired to pay more attention to the faces of people of our own race.
- People often overestimate the threats posed by black people and their movements, which is why police are quicker to shoot in ambiguous situations with a black suspect. Officers are less polite, less friendly and less respectful in encounters with black motorists than white ones.
- There's something called a "I have black friends" hall pass that seems to give white people moral justification for treating most minorities poorly.
- Going back into the 19th century there were many experts who believed that black people were genetically inferior, often comparing them to apes. This ape comparison lives on today.
- Housing has been segregated for centuries, and even today homes that were owned by black families are deemed less valuable than those owned by whites.
- Even vacation housing still discriminates against black people, as sites like Airbnb have discovered people refusing to agree to black families staying in their rentals.
- People of color have found that job resumes that identify them as not white are much less likely to result in callbacks. Algorithms look for ethnic names, activities that signal race, and even zip code information. In order to combat this discrimination people are being forced to "whiten" their resumes to make themselves look more acceptable to employers.

Dr. Eberhardt has some good suggestions to combat discrimination including procedural justice training for police departments. This training focuses on everyday interactions and getting police officers more used to dealing in person with people of other races that live in their communities. Combatting fear with exposure is a tried and true psychological tool. She also touts a "wise feedback" approach in schools that lets students know that high expectations, not racial biases, are behind all the critiques they get from teachers.

As a white person, I can't even begin to feel how dehumanizing it must be to have your character questioned at every turn because of the color of your skin. How must if feel to be afraid of the police, who are supposed to be there to protect you? White privilege is a thing, and I find it sad that some whites are now playing the victim. Life is hard no matter what color your skin. The best part of Biased is where the author calls out the cowardly pose of color-blindness. Color exists, and the sooner we recognize it, appreciate it, and get over it, the sooner we all figure out how to live together in harmony.
Profile Image for Rob Schmoldt.
60 reviews7 followers
March 24, 2021
Generally well done and a good contribution on the subject. Pairs well with Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers and Wilkerson’s Caste. The end of chapter reflection questions are excellent.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,362 reviews457 followers
November 9, 2019
Eberhardt has been working at Stanford for 30 years now, uncovering the roots of systemic racism via social science. Together with other researchers she has performed a lot of studies and learned and published. One focus of her work has been in using social science to address pressing social problems. In this book she takes all her years of research and expertise and lays it all out for the non-academic reader.
If you're not up on implicit bias it is the part that we all have picked up on regardless of our explicit ideas or beliefs. It kicks in faster than thought and slips in under our mental radar. It's why police shoot unarmed black boys, why they stop more people of color driving, it's why fewer African American and Hispanic children are labelled gifted and are more likely to have the school cop called on them for minor infractions. It's much more than that, too.
But there's the best part: Eberhardt knows how to short circuit it. There's a reason why people call them "genius" grants even if the MacArthur Foundation never does.
Engrossing, insightful, and with luck, truly helpful. We can all do better and this book is a first step for many. Brilliant.

Library copy
Profile Image for Payel Kundu.
311 reviews17 followers
August 7, 2022
We read this book for a neuroscience book club I co-run. Comment if you want our notes :)

I think we all agreed the book did not contain as much neuroscience as the promotional material suggested, but it's still an important topic, and I went into it with an open mind. The book explores how implicit racial bias affects humans’ unconscious choices and impacts every aspect of their lives, including housing, education, employment, and criminal justice. Eberhardt holds a PhD from Harvard University and is a social psychologist at Stanford University. She acts as a consultant for law enforcement as well.

The author describes performing a two-year study to investigate civil rights violations in the Oakland Police Department, and explains to the police department that she found that bias affected their decision making, regardless of their good intentions. She describes implicit bias as s “a kind of distorting lens that’s a product of both the architecture of our brain and the disparities in our society.” She described the crowd as being unreceptive to her at first, until she started sharing personal stories about her own bias. She thinks personal storytelling is an indispensable key for solving the problem of innate racial bias. She also found that by describing bias as innate and a part of natural brain function, rather than a conscious choice, they could examine it objectively without shaming anyone. So she tries to employ both of those techniques in this book.

Some vague neuroscience principles are invoked to make her points, perhaps most importantly that the brain is innately wired for categorization, which is an indispensable tool for actually making sense of the huge amount of data we constantly take in through our senses. But this categorization can go awry and so we need to be conscious of how we make these categorizations so as not to perpetuate racial bias.

I guess the reason I really didn't like the book is because I didn't learn a single thing. That's partially because I've read books on this topic before I think. Basically, I'm already under the impression that I, along with everyone else, harbors bias based on our cultural upbringing, evolutionary history, and personal choices. I agree I have bias, and I agree that working on them is important. She spends a long time convincing the reader that they too probably harbor racial bias. But if you already think that you have bias and are actively working on correcting it, this will not be news to you. She also spends a long time exploring how Black people have faced systematic discrimination for their entire existence in the United States, recently in the form of unequal policing, housing discrimination, and myriad other factors. That was also not news to me, and it has been covered in many other books. She cites some studies showing that modern day people, who probably wouldn't consider themselves racist, still value houses lower if shown a Black family living in it than a White family, even if the houses are identical. That was interesting I guess.

Mostly I feel like this book came out way too late, and presented very little original content that hasn't been covered before. It's a very important topic, I totally agree with her that racial bias exists in many obvious as well as subtle forms in America today by both virulent racists and well meaning progressives. I just didn't need to read this book to think that. Also, the stories just went on and on and on, and some of them just had me rolling my eyes through the top of my head. That cop who followed that "suspicious looking Black man" for several blocks only to realize he was seeing a reflection of himself in a window? OMG can that possibly be true?? I found most of the stories really overwrought. To be clear, it's not the suffering I find overwrought, which I believe is very real and long overdue for change, it's the storytelling in this book.

Overall, if this is your first exposure to the topic, I guess you might like this book. If you're familiar with the topic, I'd give this a skip.
Profile Image for J Adele LaCombe.
336 reviews
June 24, 2020
I wish I could give this book more than five stars. I am calling this my book of the year. It is one I want everyone I know, actually everyone everywhere to read. Dr Eberhardt is a clinical physcologist and has spent her career studying racial bias. This book is packed with well documented studies of how racial disparities and inequites exist and as I read they didn't just reside outside my world but inside. Places I had never even considered. This book opens your eyes to things that are so ingrained you don't even know you're doing them.

This book allows you to know and see some of the things happening in a new light and with factual information. It is a step to better understand and an opportunty to new ways of thinking and acting. I had gotten this book from the library but ended up buying in on Audible. I encouraged everyone in our home to listen to it so we can have discussion around these topics. It is not any book that the etnire family might find beneficial to read and dialoging around, however this is that book.
Profile Image for Sri Shivananda.
32 reviews286 followers
April 27, 2021
Jennifer L. Eberhardt has done a great job in using concepts from psychology, history, science, culture, and experiences to illustrate that bias is a common human trait, and confronting and addressing it is hard but possible. There were so many points in the book that educated me on concepts I was unaware of, made me pause, and ask questions of myself, and commit to being even more observant, empathetic, and mindful in everyday interactions. There were many great quotes in the book, my favorite one was - "Implicit bias is a kind of distorting lens that’s a product of both the architecture of our brain and the disparities in our society".
Profile Image for Roy.
37 reviews5 followers
December 14, 2019
Like “White Fragility”, I think this is essential reading for white people who want to educate themselves on the complexities of racism and how they can be (unknowingly) complicit in it. This books combines personal experience with research and data and it feels both personal and educative at the same time because of it, which makes you keep reading/listening. I listened to it, and personally had a *little* trouble with the author’s voice but that’s coming from someone who is sound sensitive so I have no doubt other people won’t have issues at all. Especially Americans.
Profile Image for Sam (she_who_reads_).
621 reviews15 followers
March 19, 2021
An eye opening look at how our (often unconscious) biases can shape our reactions to others, and the effects those reactions can have.
Highly recommend the audiobook for this one.

(Side note, if you’ve studied social psychology in the past the initial few chapters won’t really hold a lot of information you haven’t already studied, but do keep reading!)
Profile Image for Jenni Elyse.
311 reviews68 followers
May 10, 2021
I’m glad I read Biased and I’m really glad I read it via audio book. Dr. Eberhardt was a fantastic reader. She was very engaging to listen to. She came across as genuine as she had experienced some of the discrimination she wrote about herself. I thought the information on implicit bias was very interesting. I enjoyed learning about it and about myself. I think the information in Biased is important for people (read white people) to learn, especially in today’s political climate. I think every white person should read this book.
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