I just finished reading an article by Vedantam, How ‘The Hidden Brain’ Does The Thinking For Us. My dissertation dabbles with the concepts of biased mental models and implicit bias, so I found myself nodding to all of the author’s points. However, he included an excerpt from his book, Hidden Brain. I found the details of this excerpt highly disturbing. For one, I have found myself in similar situations, and quite like some of the characters in the selected scenario, in postmortem I questioned my reaction to the moment and/or the reactions–or lack thereof–of others.
In the excerpt, a young lady by the name of Deletha jumped from a bridge as a result of a brutal assault from a stranger. While I was reading this passage, I kept asking “why didn’t anyone help this young lady.” I sat with the story and tried to apply the author’s logic of the hidden mind. This is what came up with. If the aggressor and the victim were of the same race, some people may have assumed that they were lovers. And if those people tend to operate on the wisdom my grandmother shared with me–don’t get in the middle of a lover’s quarrel–they may have been acting with their hidden mind. I think the autopilot [hidden mind] the author is referring to is the behavior we express that isn’t always logical, useful or helpful and it can result in harm.
While I don’t anticipate the average class session to be anything like the death of Deletha, educators must make an effort to avoid operating on auto-pilot; we must stay “woke”. We must be aware when someone is being injured, ostracized, singled-out or mistreated, and create the type of environment where every student feels comfortable enough to state when they feel attacked. Sometimes, a toxic environment can be hard to detect if the facilitator of that moment is in a numbed state.
And for Vedantam’s effort to illustrate the hidden brain–I think his use of an extreme case really drove the point home.