Hidden Brain

As a social scientist I appreciated this week’s readings. Shankar Vendantam, The Hidden Brain -which discussed the brain on “autopilot” and  children’s absorption through cultural upbringing associations of faces really struct me. the author states that, “hidden associations” of that essentially determine what happens in the unconscious minds of these children. “Our hidden brains will always recognize people’s races, and they will do so from a very, very young age,” Vedantam says. “The far better approach is to put race on the table, to ask [children] to unpack the associations that they are learning, to help us shape those associations in more effective ways.” The author also speaks to the fact of the “colorblindness” issue of the U.S. (it would be nice if everyone were colorblind but in all reality we are not)

I appreciated reading this document as I have yet to teach and being an instructor in Sociology I have been anxious in thinking how I would discuss and instruct topics of race and race related issues to students that already have a positionality. I have been anxious about how I would  introduce “uncomfortable” conversations to students but still constructing an environment of respect of peer option. The author lightly mentions about how to “take back the controls” of our unconscious thoughts but does not go into detail about how to do so -the only critique that I have about this piece but otherwise it is useful to read insight to how our conscious and unconscious mind works. The author states that we us our unconsciousness/ “hidden brain” more often than we may realize.

Diversity enhances creativity. To me that is a clear statement. The fact that there are structure issues in society that is not inclusive and pushes a homogeneous group up in society while leaving others behind in problematic. The fact there is a “Inclusive VT” program in 2017 worries me a little (even though it is a great program and I appreciate the call for inclusion) these efforts should have been put into the making along time ago. “If we are to change, grow and innovate as quoted from Katherine W. Phillips, “How Diversity Makes us Smarter”. The discussion of safe spaces was also a topic in this week’s readings, speaking from my perspective and my identity in society there are a lack of safe space to have conversations in relation to race and social justice, in academia that is another story. As an instructor my hopes are to create a space space for my students especially with having to instruct course that directly deal with these issues. Would that space provide students with enough comfortableness for them to share the thoughts in their hidden brain? Would that be necessary for students in order the feel included and heard (as we all have had different experiences)? These questions maybe answered in different way or not at all, however as I am a still in the learning process I do hope that I learn how to construct a conducive classroom environment for all my students to be able to think like a sociologist.

4 Replies to “Hidden Brain”

  1. “The fact there is a “Inclusive VT” program in 2017 worries me a little (even though it is a great program and I appreciate the call for inclusion) these efforts should have been put into the making along time ago.”

    That was such an interesting point you put forth–one that I had not really considered until reading your piece. Why haven’t these types of groups and institutions been created prior to 2017? Are we just now beginning to acknowledge the importance of inclusivity in pedagogy? Doesn’t make sense to me either.

    1. I’ve been here for more than twenty years. InclusiveVT is not the first iteration of an institutional effort to foster inclusivity and embrace diversity. I have seen several such initiatives wax and wane over the years, and I confess to a certain amount of despair that we will ever make serious headway — even as the imperative to do so becomes more compelling with each passing moment. But my hopeful self notes that InclusiveVT has more traction and already seems more vibrant than previous projects. I also believe that change can be incremental, and that eventual success can come from what feels like a defeat. So, let’s make this time count!

  2. Perhaps the race and social justice conversations should be facilitated in engineering education as well as the social sciences. I have been perplexed that my African-American male students tend to do poorly in my programming classes, even when they have a strong STEM background. It does not make sense at all. This week’s readings finally give me a clue about what might be going on, and that the problem it’s probably not with the students’ aptitudes.

  3. “The far better approach is to put race on the table, to ask [children] to unpack the associations that they are learning, to help us shape those associations in more effective ways.”

    This is something that really struck out to me from the reading as well. I think it is important to discuss things that may make people feel “uncomfortable” rather than allowing people to suppress their inner thoughts.

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