Psychologist to discuss unconscious mind and its relation to behavior

Mahzarin Banaji, a social psychologist at Harvard University, visits Bates College to discuss what happens when well-intentioned people behave in ways that deviate from their own consciously stated intentions. Her talk takes place at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, in the Keck Classroom (G52), Pettengill Hall, 4 Andrews Road (Alumni Walk).

The talk is open to the public at no charge and is sponsored by the philosophy and psychology departments at Bates.

The Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard, Banaji has extensively researched human thinking and emotion as it develops in social contexts. She focuses on mentality in its unconscious forms, exploring the influence of the unconscious mind on how we assess ourselves and others regarding membership in social groups — age, ethnicity, gender, social class.

“From such research,” she writes, “I speak to the question of how well-intentioned people behave in ways that deviate from their own impeccable, consciously stated intentions, and how this state of affairs compromises individuals and corrupts institutions.”

Her objective is “to ask how the discovery of such ‘mind bugs’ ought to guide and transform our notions of corruption, duty and fairness, and to ensure that the moral arc of the universe indeed bends toward justice in democratic societies.”

Banaji was born and raised in India. She received her Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1986 and taught at Yale from 1986 to 2001 before moving to Harvard. She has also taught at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

She is a fellow of psychological science associations including the Society for Experimental Psychologists, the Association of Psychological Science and the Society for Experimental Social Psychology. Banaji has served on the editorial boards of such scientific journals as Psychological Review, Psychological Science and Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. She currently serves on the advisory board of the Oxford University Press.

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