7. Machinery of the Mind

. Need to understand the unconscious biases that drive us and why many decisions are fundamentally irrational and why rationalism can be the victim of emotion in decision-making


. Aligning our emotions with the task at hand is called the flow (a state of being fully immersed, engaged and involved with what you are doing, to the point where time disappears), ie

"...You must have a clear set of goals, a good balance between the perceived challenges of the tasks at hand and your own perceived skills, and the confidence that you are capable of the task. In addition, you must get clear and immediate feedback that helps to negotiate changing demands and maintain the flow state..."

Catherine Fox, 2010

To understand "flow", record what you are going and how you felt when doing it. Was it enjoyable, were you bored, satisfied, challenged, unchallenged, happy, etc? Ideally you should work on what you like doing.

The aim of flow is to have

"...a better understanding of what makes life better and try to act accordingly..."

Catherine Fox, 2010

Unconscious bias

"...The latest brain and behaviour studies reveal there's a big gap between evidence and attitudes, which may finally help explain why we don't let the facts get in the way of our opinions......In business, making decisions is portrayed as a rational and well-judged process, with no room for emotion or bias. Yet the spectacularly bad calls in the lead-up to the GFC show that's simply not the case..."

Catherine Fox, 2010a

Almost all our thoughts are unconscious. As the brain likes thinking that reinforces familiar patterns of thinking that favour survival and energy conservation, almost all of these unconscious thoughts are the same as yesterday's thoughts; about 3/4 on these old thoughts are negative or disempowering thoughts (Lawry Scandar 2020)

. People are not as rational, logical, objective as we assume. It has been stated that our pre-historic brains operate in a 21st century body and bias is part of our survival mechanism, ie making snap decisions about danger/threats, etc. We reach our assumptions without being aware of it.

. It is suggested that unconscious bias operates in staff appraisal (not on merit) and helps explain gender and ethnic discrimination, etc.

An example of unconscious bias is equity. One of the key arguments against it is that they should choose people based on merit. This is based on a false assumption, ie what occurred in the past represented merit. However, people select others who are like themselves, whether consciously or unconsciously. Thus, unconscious bias can get confused with merit. First need to give up the assumption that the status quo is merit-based, ie encourage doubt
"...about what has been happening and what should be happening......will help to develop a culture that can overcome the unconscious bias that exists or probably exists..."
Michael Hodge as quoted by James Thomson 2019

. Under pressure or in a crisis or tired, etc, people tend to default to their hard-wired behaviour, ie unconscious bias. Remember: facts do not necessarily have the power to change minds. It can be very threatening to admit that you are wrong !!!!! People prefer information that supports their opinions, views, bias, etc

. For example, 6 core facets of bias that lead to underuse of talent, education and potential of women:

"...1. Unconscious bias is the cause of lack of representation of women and senior levels in organisations and society

2. Bias is a normal and necessary part of how we process information and make decisions. It simplifies the amount of data we need to make sense of by categorizing. We would be in mental overload without it.

3. Women share the same biases men about women, work, family and home. They differ in attitudes, not bias.

4. Bias can be explained by recent neuroscience. It is a deep belief...... Bias is not open to shifting by behaviour training and telling people to think and act differently. This just makes bias more covert.

5. Bias can change with specific experience, but only if that occurs when a person is in a specific state of mind.

6. Bias doesn't go away. It shifts to another bias to continue to help us simplify our information processing tasks..."

Naralle Hooper, 2010

. An example of an implicit association test (understand your own level of bias) for Australians (see https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/)

Age (young-old). This requires the ability to distinguish old from young faces. This test often indicates that people have automatic preference for young over old.

Aboriginal-White (Aboriginal Race).This requires the ability to distinguish Aboriginal Australians from White Australians.

Weight (Fat-Thin).This requires the ability to distinguish faces of people who are obese and people who are thin. It often reveals an automatic preference for thin people relative to fat people.

Sexuality (Gay-Straight).This requires the ability to distinguish words and symbols representing gay and straight people. It often reveals an automatic preference for straight people relative to gay people.

Countries ('Australia-United States'). This requires the ability to recognise photos of national leaders and other national icons. The results revealed by this test provide a new method of appraising nationalism.

Gender (Gender-Science). This often reveals a relative link between humanities and females and between science and males.
Skin-tone (Light Skin-Dark Skin).This requires the ability to recognise light and dark-skinned faces. It often reveals an automatic preference for light-skin relative to dark-skin.
Race (Black-White). Than and African origin. It indicates that most people have an automatic preference for white over black.is requires the ability to distinguish faces of Europe

(sources: Catherine Fox, 2010; Catherine Fox, 2010a; Narelle Hooper, 2010)


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