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They're not wrong in that people often rationalize their 'instinctual' choices, but to imply that nobody is cognizant of any of their thoughts or biases and that we're all slaves to our lizard brains is a bit of a stretch.



There is a TON of data out there demonstrating we all have subconscious bias. Moreso than we believe. Even of our own groups! We are slaves to our brain!

This is a good summary of some of the data:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/26/us/ferguson-racism-or-racial-b...

Professors at the University of Chicago and MIT sent 5,000 fictitious resumes in response to 1,300 help wanted ads. Each resume listed identical qualifications except for one variation -- some applicants had Anglo-sounding names such as "Brendan," while others had black-sounding names such as "Jamal." Applicants with Anglo-sounding names were 50% more likely to get calls for interviews than their black-sounding counterparts.

Most of the people who didn't call "Jamal" were probably unaware that their decision was motivated by racial bias, says Daniel L. Ames, a UCLA researcher who has studied and written about bias.

"If you ask someone on the hiring committee, none of them are going to say they're racially biased," Ames says. "They're not lying. They're just wrong."


I'm not from the US, but don't many American blacks have white-sounding names? And I assume those blacks are more likely to come from families that are wealthier and better educated. If yes, the other explanation could be that the employers were considering the name an indication of background, i.e. a "Jamal" is more likely to come "from the hood" (poor neighborhood) than a "James".

The point is, "discrimination" is sometimes just applying statistics. Just because some statistical factors correlate with race doesn't mean one is being racist; they are just optimizing their selection process.


Jesus... did you even read the article you are commenting on? It isn't just one example. And it isnt about being racist, its about racism without racists.

> One study conducted by a Brigham Young University economics professor showed that white NBA referees call more fouls on black layers, and black referees call more fouls on white players. Another study that was published in the American Journal of Sociology showed that newly released white felons experience better job hunting success than young black men with no criminal record, Ross says.

>"The overwhelming number of people will actually experience the black man as having the knife because we're more open to the notion of the black man having a knife than a white man, " Ross says. "This is one of the most insidious things about bias. People may absorb these things without knowing them."

Anyways, this kinda stuff has been shown to happen with plenty of different groups. Attractive vs ugly, fat vs normal weight, woman vs man, old vs young, tall vs short. We aren't as rational as we'd like to believe.

...And what the hell does someone coming from a poor neighborhood have anything to do with anything? I grew up poor, I don't see how that is relevant to my job skills. I'd love to knkw why I'd be optimized out of a selection process. Furthermore, your resume usually has your address on it, you don't have to guess.


> did you even read the article you are commenting on?

No, I was just commenting on the logic of the quote in the parent comment, which I find faulty. I'm not saying people aren't racist, or subconsciously racist; I'm just saying that you can't reduce any statistical effect down to racist, while other explanations are just as possible.

> And what the hell does someone coming from a poor neighborhood have anything to do with anything?

I'm pretty sure that if you run statistics, you would find out that people from poor neighborhoods are more likely to be criminals, violent, less educated, less intelligent. Is it their fault? No, obviously not - they were never given a chance to excel (or rather, they had to overcome many more obstacles). But I think it's the responsibility of the government (or charities) to help such people, while it's the responsibility of a business to, well, do business, with the best employees it can hire.

Btw, I'm not saying that you should take the above into account. I just oppose the logic that it's always "racism". Because then you could equally say, it's racist to prefer people from Harvard, because Harvard discriminates against people from bad neighborhoods, because they have lower SAT scores.

> Furthermore, your resume usually has your address on it, you don't have to guess.

Oh, I didn't know. Mine doesn't.


> No

I'd really encourage you to read it an other articles on implicit bias; they're really important issues that have disastrous impacts.

> I'm pretty sure that if you run statistics, you would find out that people from poor neighborhoods are more likely to be criminals, violent, less educated, less intelligent.

The problem I have with this is that it's a hunch that sounds reasonable, but there's no data to support the claim. I think we need to be especially careful in situations with implicit bias to vet all of our assumptions, because in aggregate, they have really negative impacts on large subgroups of people.

Here's a link to the source document for the linked article: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/publication/are-emily-and-gr...

That article references other journal articles that review exactly what you're talking about, varying only location. It appears that it helps, but helps whites more. I didn't read that article (I'm at work; only have time for so much research, which probably should be no time at all :P)

> I'm not from the US, but don't many American blacks have white-sounding names? And I assume those blacks are more likely to come from families that are wealthier and better educated.

The article says, "Each resume listed identical qualifications except for one variation... names"

I looked into the underlying source article and they list and control for the education of the applicants, which means there's no need to judge their education by their name, since you already have it.

I think the problem a lot of people have is that it feels a lot like we're saying everyone is racist, which feels a lot like an attack. To spin it a little differently, I'd personally say we're all biased. You could go through any long list of cognitive biases and implicit racial bias would just be one of the myriad everyone is subject to in some magnitude. It's a matter of being aware of it and really questioning your founding assumptions so you can reduce the bias where possible. The problem with racism is that it has real and lasting impacts right now on minorities, and is particularly insidious (if you ask me).

I really think it would be worth your time to read the article and follow some of the linked articles. It's really interesting information that's relevant.


>I think the problem a lot of people have is that it feels a lot like we're saying everyone is racist, which feels a lot like an attack

And the article I linked to says that. Individuals don't MEAN to be racist (or sexist, etc.) but are, because culture gives us biases. Addressing unintended racism is hard, because it isn't visible. We aren't attacking individuals.


Yeah. Implicit bias is tough. For anyone interested, there's a quick rundown here:

http://med.stanford.edu/diversity/FAQ_REDE.html


> > I'm pretty sure that if you run statistics, you would find out that people from poor neighborhoods are more likely to be criminals, violent, less educated, less intelligent.

> The problem I have with this is that it's a hunch that sounds reasonable, but there's no data to support the claim.

I would bet that there is data to suggest that "people from poor neighborhoods are more likely to be criminals, violent, less educated, less intelligent", and even data to suggest the other inferences tomp brought up.

However, the vast majority of people are not "criminals", at least in the habitual sense, and the vast majority of people from the 'hood are also not "criminals".

"When the incidence, the proportion of those who [are criminals], is lower than the [proportion of people from the 'hood who are not criminals], even tests that have a very low chance of giving a false positive in an individual case will give more false than true positives overall."


I should have said "there's no data you're presenting to support this claim."

The problem I have is with phrases like "I would bet there is" or "I assume those blacks [with white sounding names] are more likely to come from families that are wealthier and better educated."

It seems like an obvious correlation to make, but they're not based on data. I think it's in our best interest, intellectually, to take a few minutes and look for some information. The internet means it can take fifteen or twenty minutes to find a decent chunk of data to start working with. It won't make you an expert (and I'm by no means one either), but it can help highlight a lot of the nuance that exists in issues like this.


"I'm pretty sure that if you run statistics, you would find out that people from poor neighborhoods are more likely to be criminals, violent, less educated, less intelligent."

What you are describing is, specifically, racism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_positive_paradox


> I'm pretty sure that if you run statistics, you would find out that people from poor neighborhoods are more likely to be criminals, violent, less educated, less intelligent.

I'm pretty sure if you run statistics you would find that people from poor neighborhoods are more likely to have their activity be criminalized, cast as violent, denied access to education formally and informally, and have their intelligence devalued in comparison to a social norm that has implicit bias.


Less educated? Perhaps. Less intelligent? Now you're sounding like a bigot. Poor people in rough neighborhoods have survival skills and street smarts that the rest of us don't.


> Less educated? Perhaps. Less intelligent? Now you're sounding like a bigot.

This only needs to be true for a higher percentage of the represented population to say that it is more likely. It doesn't make someone a bigot to talk about statistical measures. (i don't have the stats in front of me but i'm merely commenting on your accusation.)


  > The point is, "discrimination" is sometimes just 
  > applying statistics. Just because some statistical
  > factors correlate with race doesn't mean one is being
  > racist; they are just optimizing their selection process.
It's still not very good thinking, ethically or pragmatically.

Even if you could 100% accurately determine a candidate's background from looking at their resume, and even if you could be sure that people from their background were more likely to be "bad" people[1] then couldn't you also look at "Jamal's" resume and conclude: "Obviously, Jamal must be a talented guy to rise above his background and pursue a technical career?"

In the end, it's all guesswork anyway. Companies would be much better served by sticking to the facts on "Jamal's" resume and checking themselves whenever they catch themselves inventing fictional histories for people based on a candidate's name and their own racist prejudices and stereotypes. _____ [1] To be clear: I don't agree that either of these things are true.


> The point is, "discrimination" is sometimes just applying statistics. Just because some statistical factors correlate with race doesn't mean one is being racist; they are just optimizing their selection process.

If your optimized selection process selects away from Black candidates it is by definition racist.


So, is college selection process in the US racist? The process is SAT, and AFAIK blacks and Hispanics score less than whites, who score less than Asians. Is is also sexist (as more women than men study)?

I don't think so. Correlation doesn't equal causation.

Edit: also, since more Asians and less blacks are accepted at good universities, if your company relies on the name of university when selecting candidates (e.g. a candidate from Harvard is more likely to have an interview than a candidate from an unknown state school), by your logic that's racist as well.


We have a term for that in US law - "disparate impact." And yes, if your hiring practices are found to have a disparate impact on a protected class, it is illegal.


All hiring practices have a disparate impact on protected classes. The only issue is proving it. God I hate such laws!


Hang, on that's not the definition of racism.

Racism is [dis]favouring a particular group based on race. If you choose the 10 highest scorers in a maths test in a group and the racial make-up doesn't match that of the group as a whole that's not racist.

One could manipulate your choice characteristics in order to achieve the racial profile that you want. That's serious conspiracy theory territory though.


That's not a very relevant study, since you (and Ames) are just guessing at the motive.

Many people are consciously racist, not in a "I want them all lynched" way, but in a "meh, I'd rather not meet with a black guy, probably a waste of time" way.

Of course they aren't going to admit that sort of bias. And again, you're just guessing at what happened.

There is indeed subconscious bias, and it rears its ugly head when we're observing people's mannerisms, their speech, their attractiveness, and yes, their skin color. But just looking at names on a resume, I'd argue the decision of calling someone back, based on the stereotypical application of their first name, is just a conscious bias.


It isn't "a study," It is an article summarizing a lot of the data on subconscious bias as it relates to race, specifically white/black in the US. If you read it you'd know that.

Huh? I never guessed that anything happened or guessing at any motives of anyone...?

The same resume experiment has been tested with male/female names as well.


You wrote "There is a TON of data out there demonstrating we all have subconscious bias."

Is that not guessing at motives (or the lack of a motive, I suppose)?

The point the above commenter made is that the CV example does not demonstrate subconscious bias. The researcher in question said they were "probably unaware", and said that "if you ask someone on the hiring committee", implying that they did not even try to measure whether or not this bias was conscious or not, but that they assume a lot of it was subconscious.

It's quite possible - even likely - they're right about that, but from the description it does not sound like that study is a good basis for demonstrating subconscious basis.

> The same resume experiment has been tested with male/female names as well.

Many people openly admit to biases against females in certain jobs, so that too is a bad example for establishing subconscious bias.

I agree with you that there is a lot of subconscious bias (and the article has much better examples, such as the knife example where there's no motive for people to pick the wrong person), but it's not clear that the CV example demonstrates subconscious bias. It certainly does demonstrate bias though.


Your missing the forest for the trees. Don't get hung up on one example I quoted because I found it interesting.




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