I Think, Therefore I Am Biased
Date: Dec 31, 2023 9:00 a.m. – 10:40 a.m.
Member Price: $140
Non-Member Price: $175
Areas of Law: Diversity
Earn up to 2 credits, including 2.0 in Diversity! (More Information)
- Sean Carter, Esq.
- Humorist At Law, Mesa
Updated and Expanded!
The human brain is wired to recognize patterns and make generalizations, even those based on faulty or incomplete information. Contrary to popular opinion, lawyers are human and therefore, just as susceptible to forming biases and acting upon them and it does not require that we harbor ill will or animus towards other people. In fact, most often, our biases are not even our own, but rather those that have been taught to us.
In this eye-opening presentation, the presenter will use videos to show lawyers just how easy it is to form these biases, how they manifest themselves with clients, colleagues and opposing parties, and most importantly, how we can reduce the effect of these biases by recognizing and compensating for them. Finally, the presenter will offer concrete examples of DEI policies that have been effectively implemented in other organizations to help them become more inclusive.
**This newly expanded program contains even more information. Don’t miss it!**
- Sorting Rule #1 – We must have an answer
One of the basic human needs is for certainty and this need is so strong that, in the absence of confirmable truth, our natural tendency is to fill-in-the-blanks with our best guess. In many cases, our best guesses are the result of a combination of “facts” that are, in and of themselves, best guesses, meaning that we have tendency to be both certain and wrong. The foregoing is illustrated for attendees by showing a now-infamous video of then Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis trying to answer a question for which he did not have the answer – “Why there were so few black managers in major league baseball at the time?” His efforts to give a certain answer to a hard-to-answer question resulted in him creating biases on the fly that would shortly thereafter spell the end to an otherwise noteworthy career.
- Sorting Rule #2 - Seeing is believing
Not surprisingly, we get most of the information we use to make decisions based on our sight. But what is surprising is that sight isn’t just our first point of reference, but it is the ultimate determiner of truth. In other words, even if our other senses give us contradictory information, we will base our conclusion on what we see. This truth is demonstrated through a visual and auditory test administered by the presenter.
Sight dominance wouldn’t be such a problem if human beings were creatures with exceptional eyesight. However, as it turns out, we see rather poorly given the way that our brains process images. In short, our brain has been trained to make educated guesses as to what we see based on assumptions of what we should see.
Sorting Rule #3 - Err on the side of caution
When all else fails and we are unable to come to a definitive (even if likely wrong) conclusion, the brain’s default is to choose the “safest” option for us. This is a very wise strategy in situations where the cost of being wrong is severe (such as, say, death), but it doesn’t serve us quite as well when the stakes are lower and especially given that our “view” of safety is often influenced by societal (and even innate) conditioning to feel safer with those who look most like us. As a result, our natural tendency is to seek out and forge bonds with others who we perceive to be on our “tribe.” Cognitive biases towards those in the “in-group” are well-documented, and the attendees will be introduced to some of the research and shown how this in-group preference operates within legal organizations.
- Sorting all above
The sorting rules set forth above will often lead people (and even lawyers) to make bad decisions based on hastily reached conclusions. These conclusions will often be based on biases that we have learned from others or have reached through previously hastily reached conclusions. Fortunately, while these sorting rules are not replaceable, they are negotiable. In other words, they can be tweaked to help us make better decisions by recognizing our biases and then compensating for them.
- Revised Sorting Rule #1 - We must have an answer, but the answer is complicated.
The importance of this tweak is to get lawyers to understand that, in the past, being smart has often entailed making quick decisions based on limited information. But being “smart” isn’t enough to help us remove barriers and boundaries that have disadvantaged others for centuries. To do that, we must be wise. And wisdom is understanding that our first answer is not always the right answer and that we increase our chances of coming to this right answer is to slow down our thinking process and insist upon more information. And part of that additional information is relying on experts who, through years of training, can often see much clearer than we can.
- Revised Sorting Rule #2 - Seeing is believing but watch out for your blind spots
Just as blind spots in our vision as motorists make it more difficult to navigate our way down the highway in our cars, the blind spots in our vision as lawyers make it more difficult to navigate the diversity and inclusion issues that plague our profession. And just like the answer for a motorist is not to ignore those blind spots and pretend that they have reached some “post-blind spot” nirvana, our answer is to come to grips with our blind spots by taking a “second look” and even seeking navigational assistance from those who are better situated to see hazards and dangers that elude our current vision.
- Revised Sorting Rule #3 - Err on the side of caution opposite your biases
Obviously, it’s not enough to just know that you have blind spots. To make strides towards overcoming them, it requires that you act upon this knowledge. And one of the easiest ways to do so is to make a conscious effort to overcompensate for your known biases.