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Turi: Today we’re immensely pleased to be talking to Lasana Harris. Lasana is professor in social cognition at UCL in the UK, um, where his research uses a social neuroscience approach to explore. The neural correlates of person perception. We’re going to go into that a little bit more detailed now, and he can explain what that means.
He’s also the author of invisible mind, which takes an interdisciplinary approach to how the brain enables dehumanization. So we at Parlia interested in how humans form opinions, but also, and critically how we engage with others. Today, we’re going to be looking at what social neurons neuroscience can tell us about the very worst of all forms of interaction, dehumanization Lasana.
Thank you so much for joining us.
Lasana Harris: Thanks for having me.
Turi: Can I kick off with a few that were just to sort of lay the groundwork here and ask you what social neuroscience is?
Lasana Harris: It’s the study of human behavior through the lens of the brain. And so essentially what we’re doing is taking social behavior questions, questions you might find in social psychology or behavioral economics. I’m going to asking what are the underlying brain mechanisms that enable these. Behavior psychological functions. Um, and so social neuroscientists, essentially, uh, people who are both concerned about the brain and concerned about social behavior.
Turi: Can I ask you to jump straight into the opposite of your focus, which is dehumanization. So can we look at humanization as a place to start? What is theory of mind? When does it develop?
Lasana Harris: Yeah, I think it’s the most fascinating thing personally, in my opinion. And it’s the reason why I study what I do study. If you think about it, we’ve never seen another mind. We can only influence existence based on the behaviors that we witnessed. And so humanization is this process of attributing mental characteristics to something, anything. So there’s a lot of research that I do that looks at how we humanize things that aren’t human. Right. How do we attribute minds to robots, to algorithms and AI? Um, To animals, to buildings, entities, governments, religions, day tees, right. Humans have this knack for seeing minds everywhere. Um, and I think one of the reasons we do this is because in filtering a mind, imagining that something has a mind allows us to explain and predict the behavior of that entity.
And so. Things that usually attract a humanized gaze are things that we call agents. They seem to originate their own behavior. So if, if I’m walking outside and I notice a Boulder rolling down a Hill, I expect the behavior that Boulder to be consistent with the physical laws of nature. Right? Boulders rolling down Hills gravity explains why it’s doing that. If the Boulder stops rolling down the hill. So short circuits, what gravity says it should do changes direction without anybody changing it for it. And suddenly starts rolling after me. I now see that Boulder as something that has a mind, because it has what we call agency, right. It wasn’t able to behave in ways that aren’t explained by the physical laws of nature. And when things started disobeying nature’s physical laws, we think of them as intentional agents. Right. And the humanization process begins.
Now, the remarkable thing, and I think the Boulder analogy makes this really clear is that there’s nothing really there. What we’re doing is using our past experiences where using information we have about people or in this case, boulders and their typical behavior, we’re using information about the situation or in the context that we’re in, right? And that’s why you sometimes see research as correlate theory of mind, because what we’re doing is building a theory about what somebody might be thinking right. In the same way that scientists do when we try to discover something about the world. And so for this reason, We’re all sort of considered naive scientists, right? We’re experts at human behavior. We’re constantly building theories are where testing about what’s on somebody’s mind. What is somebody thinking? What are they feeling? Um, And so it’s quite a remarkable process. Um, and so by studying humanization is process of theory of mind we get a chance to understand meaningful social behaviors, because it’s used to predict and explain more people to do it.
Turi: Gotcha. Um, thanks so much for that. Um, when does theory of mind develop neurologically and in the human? When the, when do we stop being able to infer agency and others?
Lasana Harris: Yeah. So if you look at, um, infants, um, infant start dissociating humans from other things out there in the world, fairly early on at about, let’s say, um, 15 weeks. Um, and by about. Uh, a few months old, they can distinguish types of humans so they can tell them my they’re separate from the human beings. So very early on, humans capture our attention. So babies will look longer at human faces than any other types of stimulants. So we’re born prepared to learn about other minds because that’s crucial, of course, to our existence within a highly social species as humans are. Um, so. The tools are there from very early on, but the kinds of sophisticated skills that we’ve seen, our don’ts gradually develop over the first few months and years of life. So for instance, in some of the work we’ve done, we’ve shown that, um, 18 month olds have a lot of, of skills, social cognitive skills, mainly because they’re starting to do, what’s called a vocabulary spurt and a lot of, of.
Mental state influences thinking about the minds depends on language. So you need that tool to help him. And so having the ability now to learn words and generate, which helps them get a little bit more skills. Um, but even before that, for instance, at 10 months or infants alerting causal relationships, which is going to be necessary for them, To be able to generate and test theories later on. So we have what I call rudimentary skills from very early on in life. And then as we develop, as we get my experiences, as we get more cognitive tools, we really bring on this. Theory of mind social cognitive processes. So I would say by the age of, and there’s tons of debate here, but Sydney, by the age of 18 months to two years old, we’re seeing sophisticated social cognitive skills, things like deception detection. They come much later five-year-olds for instance, but when does it come online is sort of a sliding scale.
Turi: Gotcha. Um, so can I ask you what the social value of this humanization is?
Lasana Harris: Sure. So it’s fundamental to communication first of all. So for us to have a conversation, I need to have an idea of what it is you’re asking me, because the word alone is often insufficient for me to infer, meaning because words are delivered in context, and I need to know what the goals are, what your desires are, why it is, we’re having this conversation. So it really facilitates social communication. So it enables us to be this hyper social species. Now can. Species survive without language, certainly, but in most social species, there are some signaling that happens between the members of the group, essentially, so that they can perform social functions.
The other thing is that it makes your goals salient to me so that if we’re engaged in joint actions or drawing tasks, we can better perform those tasks. So if I know what you’re supposed to be doing and then drawing task, and I’m tracking that while I’m tracking, when I’m supposed to be doing it, really facilitates our ability to get the task done. The other real advantage it has is that it facilitates what scores, impression management or reputation management. It allows us to be able to track or position within social hierarchies. So if we’re in a hyper social species, like humans are, we need to know where we sit within social groups and we can do that by engaging as sort of metacognitive component of social cognition, where we wonder what other people are thinking of us.
So when I yell at my computer, it doesn’t yell back. Right. And I’m not worried about what the computer thinks at me for yelling at it. But if I yell at another person, I’m going to worry how they now view me given that I’d be out of them. So we’re constantly monitoring the impressions of the people have of us social cognition facilitates that as well.
Turi: That’s fascinating. So it’s both, it’s both. Sort of proactive for the group and also helps the individualist ascertain where they are inside it.
Lasana Harris: Yeah, exactly. And the last part is it makes morality relevant. And so morality is all about suffering and harm. And intentionality, right. Bad minds, essentially.
And so morality just lives in that social cognitive domain. So the moral rules that we use to govern how we live in large groups are facilitated by these social cognitive processes as well. So like you said, It makes the groups function and go, but it also helps us as individuals within those groups.
Turi: And just to look at this question of morality again, the argument here is that it is the group’s understanding of other’s state of mind, theory of mind, which allows them to attribute motives and therefore impute morality or immorality to those actions. Is that right?
Lasana Harris: Exactly. If I see somebody do something. Do something negative. So let’s say I see somebody engage in a bad behavior at Martinez, rather than not behave there happen accidentally or intentionally. And the intentional piece matters because it says something about that. Person’s mind. I don’t remember the mind is the explanation for their behavior. So if you’ve done something bad because of your bad mind, that means. Going forward in the future. I can predict you might do something bad again. So it makes the interaction I have with you. It gives me ground rules for governing that interaction, right. It discourages me from trying to form social relationships with you. Unless of course, I want to do things where someone would have bad intentions is going to be useful. Um, But if I see you perform that behavior and it’s accidental, right. Um, then you may not be counted on in the future to do bad things because you only engage in that behavior through no, because of your role and right. And again, the mind is where it becomes relevant. So being able to attribute that intentionality. Responsibility. That’s really a key component of morality. Um, so again, that’s sort of our social cognition.
Turi: Lasana Thank you. So we’ve covered the basics of what humanization is, how it works and why it’s so useful to us. Now let’s do the opposite. What is dehumanization?
Lasana Harris: So dehumanization for us as simply short-circuiting humanization. So we’ve kept it fairly simple in its definition. Now this isn’t, like I say your granddaddy’s definition of dehumanization because for us dehumanization, isn’t something that’s just happening in cases of human atrocities. So we think of dehumanization much more as an. Everyday psychological phenomenon. And that’s really because we think that being able to regulate whether you engage social cognition or not as functional, they’re going to be benefits in your day-to-day living. If you have the ability to not get in the head of every single person you encounter.
Um, and so dehumanization has become a bit of a troublesome tune for us over the years. These days they’re calling it flexible social cognition because lots of people have the belief, right. That dehumanization is bad, but in psychology we study processes. Right. And not because they’re valence, but because their psychological processes and every psychological process can be used for good or bad. So what’s the good case for dehumanization. All they’re doing lots of wigs these days, looking at healthcare professionals. And what we’re discovering is that if a healthcare professional. Is he able to regulate their social cognition that is, they’re not getting inside of the head of every single patient and empathizing with them and displaying compassion in that way.
They’re actually guarded against burnout in their profession. Right. Because remember, they’re constantly coming into people who contact with people who are suffering. And it also leads to them actually better treating the prison. Right. Viewing the prison as a broken machine, allows them to do a better job of sticking them with a needle or performing surgery. And that’s because thinking about somebody’s mind requires much of cognitive processing. As we put it and requires a lot of heavy lifting by the brain and those resources could instead be used for sort of helping the person, fixing the prison, you know, doing the surgery you’re instead using them to think about what this person is thinking and ruminate about their suffering and wonder about all of their family members and friends who are worried and concerned.
So it actually leads to benefits to de-humanize. Um, And that’s not only true in the health profession, um, that happens in all of our lives in lots of different circumstances. So here’s one example. Um, imagine that you had a friend who was a realtor, they’re your really wonderful friend, but you know, they are a terrible realtor so you, one day decide you’re selling your house. Do you go to your friend to sell your house? You know, that going to your friend is probably going to mean you don’t get as much money for your house. If you’re driven by profit. It makes sense to go elsewhere and the moment where you have to make that decision, if you don’t think about your friends’ minds, right? If you regulate that social cognition, it’s going to be easier to make the financially driven decision. Right now, you can always switch it back on later and worry about repairing your relationship when they find out. But it’s really going to guide you to make a better financial decision in that context. So we’ve done. Lots of research, showing that people again, make better financial decisions and some circumstances if they regulate this ability. So they had cases where regulating the ability is really useful and functional. Um, and so that allows us to save on dehumanization is more of an everyday phenomenon than you would have thought. Turi: So this, this key piece of the sliding scale of dehumanization is critical because as you say. So most of us dehumanization is what leads to the massacres in Rwanda Srebrenica, the Holocaust, the history of slavery and racism, misogyny, et cetera, were there is that we immediately jumped to the atrocity, but in fact, we are all engaged in sort of a graded process of dehumanization kind of all the time, because it’s useful, right?
Lasana Harris: Exactly. And there’s no evidence that dehumanization is engaged in those human atrocities. So what we have is a nice relationship. There’s a co-occurrence. So we see dehumanizing propaganda when we see these atrocities. And so people say in the legal context, the human rights context, for instance, dehumanization is if you will, of the fire. Well, we don’t actually think that’s true. We’ve done some empirical research asking this question.
And what we’ve discovered is that. Emotions like anger and fear are much more energizing when it comes to committing these human atrocities. What dehumanization does we think is it allows you to justify why the behavior has occurred so that. Keep it going. So we think dehumanization is serving a different function. In those cases, it’s doing what we call post-hoc justification. So the victims didn’t really have minds like us backs to dehumanization. Therefore they didn’t suffer that badly. Therefore, what we did really wasn’t that bad in the first place. So it gives you this justific Qatari mechanism, but we don’t think it’s motivating. We don’t think. Dehumanization is what gets you to pick up a machete and go after your neighbor, right. We think fair on historical circumstances and anger and revenge, right? For past atrocities, those things are more meaningful. And again, these human atrocities are complex, right? There’s not a single motivating factor.
So we don’t think dehumanization is playing that role. For the simple reason that if I, I have an enemy who I want to suffer, I need to switch on social cognition to make sure that they are suffering. Right. So there is some research that, that creates, right. That you get more dehumanization in what score, instrumental harm. So I’m buying. Cheap clothing from sweatshop workers. I de-humanized the sweatshop workers, cause I don’t want to feel bad about my clothing, but if I actively want to harm your, I need to know I’m making you suffer. So in the most sort of moral Harmond score, you don’t find a lot of dehumanization coming around. So it’s really one of those cases where. As human beings, we have these folk theories about psychologically. This is how it functions, but if we could do some empirical work, we see that it isn’t quite that way. Um, so it’s near impossible to do research and genocide, right? The studies that have led us to these conclusions are, are hypothetical Carlos. Um, but nonetheless, it does present an interesting way of viewing dehumanization. That’s very different from the traditional view.
Turi: So we think of dehumanization as a justification for behaviors, which are inspired by other feelings, rage, fear, those types. But, um, but they, if one looks at the history of oppression, we see examples of dehumanization all the way through. Descriptions of slaves, for example, in the 17th and 18th century constantly talk about sort of the diminished humanness of, uh, of, of these people being trafficked. The Germans talked literally about the idea of an intervention and under human and not quite human Jew. Um, so all the way through, purely from a sort of literary critical perspective, you’ve got, um, descriptions of dehumanization at work all the way through.
So there’s. There’s clearly a link here. Maybe it’s simply that those atrocities are too difficult to commit for the human mind, unless the victim of those atrocities has been dehumanized.
Lasana Harris: Exactly. And a lot of what you’re describing at the propaganda functions as well. So a lot of these descriptions are propaganda for a reason, right. It justifies the practice. So if I’m a British prison and the. 18th century. And I want to invest my money and banks were recently created because of the slave trade. The place I’m investing is in slaves, right? So I’m buying into being a slave owner. Now that may sound obvious as a place to put my money, but if I have dehumanizing propaganda that justifies the treatment of those people, I feel more comfortable making that investment.
And so I become a. Absentee slave owner, Ryan living in London. And so it’s not that I’m necessarily a morally bad person, right? Because I didn’t even think about the suffering of those people in the Western days. Right. What I’m doing instead is thinking about the financial investment, which we know is going to be dehumanizing.
As I mentioned before, once we get in a financial context minds around event for profit, but secondly, The dehumanization has short-circuited any empathy or compassion I might have for those people, making it seem like not a morally bad thing that I’m doing. So I think that approach to dehumanization allows you to see how these atrocities function, because the atrocities starting is.
One thing we have to solve, but then the atrocities usually sustain themselves, right? Slavery existed for hundreds of years. And I’m sharing the sustaining question is not the same. I think of entering the initiation right into this thing. Get started. Um, So I think dehumanization does have a functioning human atrocities.
It’s not the causal mechanism as what I think. And in legal Canon, the way human rights are instructed, it’s viewed as a causal mechanism. So we struggled to get convictions from perpetrators of human atrocities because we’re looking for causal evidence, but nobody in a death squad says that guy de-humanized this group. And therefore I decided to go kill them. Right. There are many other factors that led to you being in a death squad and metering people. Um, but dehumanization helps in the court of public opinion.
Turi: So let’s go back to the kind of intuitive, uh, conclusion that you start with, which is that in fact, dehumanization is not a cause it’s potentially a correlate or a, or a justification. And let’s go back again and reframe dehumanization in the term that you use, which is flexible social cognition. The fact that we can withhold or grant more humanness to the people that we’re interacting with, we are either more or less empathetic towards them. Can we talk to some of the, um, examples that you’ve seen. Um, where that dehumanization truly is damaging.
Lasana Harris: Yeah. I think there are lots of really good everyday examples, today of dehumanization. The first one, which we haven’t mentioned at all is, is sexual objectification, right? How do we view, um, women’s primarily bodies, right? As commodities and the horror sort of issue are surrounding sexual harassment and feminist stability and the conversations we’re still having about safeguarding women. Um, Dehumanization is rampant there. Right? So it’s the same psychological mechanism. You’re not thinking about the woman’s mind when you’re checking her out. Right. Um, so there’s work to be done there surrounding advertising and how women are portrayed, um, that has to do with reinforcing a de-humanize mindset towards their bodies.
Um, and it’s not just limited to women’s bodies. It’s. Much more complicated than that, but that’s the biggest problem to start with the homeless people you mentioned. And I would say charity work in general, people who are suffering. Um, they’re constantly around us in, in metropolitan places like London, right? You see homeless people every day. It’s really hard to expend that much empathy constantly to these people because of the cognitive demand. And also people are making the prediction that they don’t have the financial resources to really help these people as well. And so if I feel like I can’t, how right do I want to feel bad for?
Not helping binders are shut off their mind, go borrow a tiny day. Um, and so you get a lot of this tuning of Brian, I behavior to human suffering in general. When you think about the pandemic in places like India that are really devastated by it, it’s. Managed to think of 350,000 a day. We COVID as a statistic rather than 350,000 suffering people. So there’s lots of, sort of what I call proactive emotion regulation that we use dehumanization for in the everyday context as well. And that’s just to. And examples. And like you said, there are many, many more cases where I think this process of being flexibly, engaged or disengaged, I think the commoditization of labor.
Absolutely. I think when people get into social rules, it really promotes social cognition or not. Right. Think about it. Someone who is an HR manager who had to make tough decisions because of the pandemic in terms of desktop numbers and who gets to keep their job and who doesn’t and who goes on full and who doesn’t again, if you thought about the suffering of those people, it makes your job very difficult. It makes it really hard to look at yourself in the mirror. If you think about the company surviving. Through the pandemic. So there’ll be jobs in the future, right. Then dehumanizing the employees today is really helpful. Um, and you can scale that up to more macro, uh, labor issues as well. So there are many arenas, I think, in modern society where dehumanization is playing a role healthcare who gets access to healthcare, right.
Who gets, um, what types of treatments prescribed to them? There’s research in the American context, sharing that. African-American women are usually given less pain medication, for instance, during, um, different types of procedures. Again, because you’re not thinking about their minds, you’re viewing them as superhuman in a sort of a way they have the ability to greatly be at pain, consistent with stereotypes associated with that group. Um, and then all of the, the cheap labor for things like, um, gig industrial workers all the way through to. Right. Clothing manufacturers. There’s tons of places where this stuff is relevant, I think, but we haven’t looked at it through that lens because we’ve saved the humanization for genocide, um, torture. And so we, we haven’t really understood these processes psychologically.
Turi: So I just want to dig in a little bit into some of these ones. So it sounds as if, um, this dehumanization of the other gender or of other races, I wonder whether elements of that comes in, which you talk to about not seeing him, not being, not feeling able to understand them and therefore finding it much easier to dehumanize. So all these jokes that men have told since forever about. Who can understand a woman’s mind, can you can never understand the opposite gender, that it may be grounded in a sense of confusion, but actually rarefying it stabilizing it as an idea allows for this dehumanization. What’s the relationship in that instance to your mind? Is it one which starts with confusion and then leads to dehumanization? Or is it something else?
Lasana Harris: That’s an interesting idea. I think we’ve thought about the, the lack of understanding in the case of people who stop suffering psychological illnesses. So all psychological illnesses on view, the same, and some have very stigmatizing and dehumanizing and they tend to be the ones like you just described where it’s harder to figure out someone’s mind. So a schizophrenia is a much more de-humanized target than let’s say someone who suffers with depression, for instance, Um, so the lack of understanding may apply to the gender case. What did research as engender have looked at is what they call, um, uh, benevolent sexism is the best predictor. So that’s, uh, a paternalistic view of woman. So believing that women should be put in a pedestal and protected, and there are places in the home and they’re weakened than men. Having that type of belief or attitudes towards women predicts more likely sexually objectifying them. So I think the argument has been that it’s more about women serving a specific function, sex being part of that function, and they need to stick to that particular function.
And in that sense, it’s a view of women as not being fully human in quite the same way, right. Because decider of human is an abstract representation. Whatever the dominant symbol or prototype is within a society. And that’s usually right. Middle age. Mt. Wealthy to middle class male, right in Western societies. So anything that’s not, not ideal as subject to being de-humanized in some way, because they are limited in what people think they capable of doing. And I think it’s really that limitation on capability. Not maybe what’s driving the agenda, dehumanization the objectification to be quite honest.
Turi: Lasana. Can I ask you to jump into what the neuroscience here looks at when you’re talking about flexible social cognition. Can you walk us through perhaps the experiment that you did with Princeton students? Just so help us understand what you can see through SMRI scans and many other things besides in this process of social cognition. So again, if we say social psychology helps us understand the ways that humans interact together and comes up with evolutionary reasons or psychological reasons for the rate at which we treat. To each other, the way that we do, but what neuroscience does and social neuroscience particularly does, is looks at what is happening in the brain.
Lasana Harris: Yeah. The brain is the. And memorize a wonderful thing to us because it gave us a glimpse inside the black box of cognition. So if somebody is doing something again, you can see mental processes, right. You can only infer them from behavior. So you look at the history of psychology outside college. After we left Freud behind, we went to behaviorism. Right. But all we did is focused on behavior because we couldn’t see inside the black box. And then we had the cognitive revolution, which was all about the things in the black box. And we developed reaction time measures. We still couldn’t see it, but we got more indirect measures before, um, things that were better than we had before. Once the technology gave us a Femara, we could literally see brain activity patterns.
And so what we do at Fri as we use that as a tool or a sounding board, is the way I think of it. So in the case of social cognition, one of the things we discovered is that all of these social cognitive processes seem to engage the same distributed network of brain activations. So there’s this natural that’s primarily in the neocortex. That’s the more recently evolved part of the brain, including areas in the frontal lobe and parietal lobe and temporal envelope that all work in concert to allow you to infer what’s happening inside somebodies mind. And again, the reason you need all of that processing power, right, is your hypothesis testing. So you’re using your past experience. You have fairies about durability testing them. You’re integrating a lot of statistical information. So it takes us big, distributed, new cords that connect to it. So you can use that as an index and we can see if I flash a picture of a prison in front of you, do you use spontaneously engaged, just natural, which is what research had always told us should happen.
Not then not with per se, but the humanizing you should spontaneous. We see the prisoners, the human, therefore you should engage this network. What we discovered is when we showed participants, homeless people, they didn’t bring this natural online. And again, I was tracking because. Everything broke this notch with timeline, because as long as it’s relevant to people, right, this metric was engaged. In fact, there was so engaged. People often talked about it at the default mode network, because if I took a participant stuck on the MRI and gave them new instructions, This network was engaged because when I’m mind wandering, I’m examining social relationships, I’m engaging social cognition. It’s like a default exactly by default.
Exactly. And so this idea that you didn’t engage social cognition to some people was striking because it was always on now, just the idea of social cognition being a default. Stops working against this cool concept of it being inefficient, the whole stereotyping discussion. If we’re doing this by default, if by default and considering your mind, then it’s not really that effortful and for most people, right? Thinking about what somebody else’s thinking, this fight. All of the processing and uses. It’s not hard for us to do we’re experts at it, but doing it all the time. So I shouldn’t have to rely on a stereotype, but anyway, so that’s what we do. We live in the brain of this index and that gives us a sense as to whether. Um, the police men gained social cognition or not. So you show sexist, man, pictures of women in bikinis. You see reduction in this natural, you have people buying and selling other people in the context of a labor market. You see reduction in this metric. You have people looking at homeless people. You’ve seen reduction in this natural, over many labs, over many scenarios. We see what modulates activity in this brain region. Now, the other thing that brain allows you to do is you can see where, what else gets engaged, right? What other types of psychological processes might be substituting, and you can explore that as well. So the brain is a really useful tool to have, because that’s going to allow us to generate hypotheses. We wouldn’t have had. Without looking into the brain. So this whole way of thinking of dehumanization that I’ve just described, that’s only possible because we first saw this lack of activity in the brain and that led us to do all of the other stuff that I’ve been telling you about.
Turi: That’s fascinating. Um, we will link to, um, several of your research papers in the show notes for people who want to go a little bit deeper. Um, can I wrap Lasana by asking you how we address some of these issues of flexible social cognition, gone wrong. In other words, dehumanization, um, there’s obviously a personal psychology element to this, and there’s a social context.
You talk, I’m quoting you, um, of dehumanization as a product of intergroup, cognitive bias and emotional prejudice. So on the one hand, Social context. And on the other hand, personal psychology, how do we fix this?
Lasana Harris: That’s a great question? I think we have to re-engineer the social context, because at the core I’m also a social psychologist and I think the biggest contribution of social psychology is the power of the context. I can create a context to get people to do anything, and I’m not really. Made a lot of sense to me when we did or labor market experiments, because we were able to pull up this dehumanization brain response in regular people, looking at other regular people. Um, didn’t take a lot. So this, the circumstances, the situation, the social context and matches. And therefore that means that the people who engineer the social context matchup for bringing about change. And so I do think this has to happen at the policy level, right at the level where you can make decisions and literally change the social context. Um, give me an example, for instance, if you think about. Um, the traditional, uh, example people use with bias around, um, the orchestra. So there’s this story of an orchestra in the east coast of the U S who didn’t have enough female first chairs. And. What they therefore had people do was give auditions behind the curtain. So you couldn’t see gender access structural or social context change instead of auditioning, or I can see you perform it not happens where I can’t see you. And they saw an increase in the number of female fizz chairs. Right? So that’s a structural kind of a change that leads to a benefit. I think that’s the way forward. Really? So you’re worried about police officers shooting African-American males in the U S. Maybe they shouldn’t be called out for all of the variety of incidences they’re calling out for maybe we need different types of first responders that are armed and trained to kill.
Like they’re there to me, obviously, simple solutions to lots of the problems we currently face. I think we lacked the political will to do it. Um, but the solutions to me are relatively straightforward, but there are these big structural solutions. You’re not. I is training every individual. That stuff helps them. It matches too, but it’s not going to make the change run society’s work sort of reinforcing the things the way they are.
Turi: What about on the personal level? What can we do?
Lasana Harris: Yeah. Show ourselves here’s where I’m pessimistic. Right? I don’t think about, I don’t think human beings have the ability to, I really don’t. I think. As human beings, we have certain motives and we’re always going to do what allows us to satisfy those motives. We will have more tests that belong to be parts of groups, to feel, um, to trust other people, to make social connections right there, all of these, more to feel good about ourselves, et cetera, et cetera. So for me, we have fairly straightforward, um, The situations where, and means that those motives are only achievable some ways, not others, for instance. And so I really do think re-engineering situations is a really big twist that, and I worry less about what we can do as individuals. I believe being aware of these psychological processes and how they function is a start, but when we’re put in situations, We’re going to respond in the appropriate manner.
So I’m not one who puts a lot of emphasis in where we can do what we can do is advocate who will do it, political leaders, accountable for engineering, the situations that need and ruled them out when they do it. Right. We can take advantage of the democratic process. We can support corporations who are doing the right thing by the employees, right? Like we can take action in that way. So show justice action rather than sort of attending a workshop.
Turi: But, um, but the personal injunction to try and be less of a, an asshole is that it’s a difficult one. That’s what we do. Lasana thank you so much for walking us through this very complex and very important topic. It’s been wonderful talking to you.
Lasana Harris: No problem. Thank you.