Character  &  Context

The Science of Who We Are and How We Relate
Editors: Mark Leary, Shira Gabriel, Brett Pelham
Jun 23, 2015

Addressing Pervasive Biases in Academia

Image of a diploma and a graduation cap on top of a stack of books

The current requirements for diversity training at universities fall short of addressing the pervasive gender, racial, and ethnic biases in academia. A new paper in Science today argues for more rigorous testing and evaluation of diversity training programs for scientists. Acknowledging that diversity training can often backlash and fail to correct the problem, the psychologists suggest interventions that incorporate “active learning techniques,” such as exercises, activities, and discussions that dynamically engage participants.

When asked for a specific example of such interventions, lead author Corinne Moss-Racusin of Skidmore College explained that no such interventions exist. “There are no interventions that have been tested in randomized controlled trials for use with academic science audiences,” she says. While researchers have conducted such testing for interventions to reduce implicit biases, the strategies were not geared toward academic scientists. “That intervention used tested principles of social psychology — such as counter-stereotypic imaging, individuation, and perspective taking — to effectively reduce implicit biases,” Moss-Rascusin says.

This lack of tested training is what inspired the paper in the first place.

The paper, “Scientific Diversity Interventions” by Moss-Racusin, along with Jojanneke van der Toorn of Leiden University and John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham, and Jo Handelsman of Yale University, was published Feb. 7, 2014 in the journal Science.

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Why is this blog called Character & Context?

Everything that people think, feel, and do is affected by some combination of their personal characteristics and features of the social context they are in at the time. Character & Context explores the latest insights about human behavior from research in personality and social psychology, the scientific field that studies the causes of everyday behaviors.  

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