Tackling Fear: The first step in preventing hate and discrimination


In the words of the great and honorable Yoda, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (The Phantom Menace) One thing Yoda is missing here is the cause of fear, which is often ignorance or a lack of awareness. Naturally, if we do not understand something, we have a tendency to fear it. This is an important instinct we have as animals and it is precisely what has allowed us to continue living on this earth. On the other hand, being human gives us the cognition to learn to prevent the unnecessary and destructive forms of fear – the types of fear that cause us to hate and discriminate and that end up shortening the lives of many here on this same earth.

As a facilitator for Breakview Training, I am proud to be part of an organization which provides insight and education into the more sensitive areas that can, and do, foster hate, discrimination and disrespect. And each time I train someone to see into the values and perspectives of those who seem different than them, I feel the world growing into a slightly more inclusive place for all of us. Sensitivity and diversity trainings are becoming more and more necessary in a world where abundant sources such as the media and polarized politics constantly offer us reasons to fear groups of people. Indeed, without the supplementary information we and other companies provide about what brings us together, I believe we would be figuratively torn apart at the seams as a human culture. Seams are, after all, meant to hold things together, not provide a line for severage. With Breakview, I intend to continue providing support in the areas where are our seams feel the most tension by spreading knowledge and awareness and thereby preventing fears that lead us into human suffering.

High Stakes Gender Bias – Part 1

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Researchers Ioana Latu, Marianne Mast and Tracie Stewart conducted and experiment to see if implicit and explicit gender stereotypes held by a male interviewer impacted a female applicant’s performance. In addition, they sought to uncover the impact of the applicant’s stereotypes on their performance in a job interview.

Prior research in the early 90s showed that female managers tended to be assigned more negative traits compared to men while successful managers were perceived as possessing traits associated with the male paradigm. More recent research by Duehr & Bono in 2006 suggest that Western culture is trending towards expressing more “equitable views of gender roles.”

Yet personal bias can exist below the surface even though we make explicitly disavow them. Explicit gender stereotypes define what we say out loud, while implicit gender stereotypes define the ideas we have that can only be exposed when we make quick decisions without deep reflection. The best way to uncover bias and measure it’s impact is to measure implicit gender bias.

There is ample research that shows how implicit stereotypes predict the decisions and discriminatory behavior of individuals with negative bias towards a particular group. For example,  Paluck & Spencer-Rodgers’ article called “The Masculinity of Money: Automatic Stereotypes Predict Gender Differences in Estimated Salaries“.

Current researcher suggest that in high stakes mixed-gender interactions such as a job interview, organizations should take into account implicit and explicit gender stereotypes.

In the next post, we will look at steps to mitigate the effects of gender bias in the context of a job interview.

Political Correctness: Why so taboo?

What does it mean to be politically correct (P.C.)? According to Merriam-Webster, being P.C. means “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behavior in a way that could offend a particular group of people.” Similarly, Oxford dictionaries defines political correctness as “the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”

When you look at political correctness from a pure definition standpoint, the idea seems unquestionably sound. Why would we not want to avoid forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against? How could we not all agree that people should be careful to not use language or behavior in a way that could offend a particular group of people? Interestingly, this seemingly simple idea of political correctness has grown into a complex concept with many opposing views, and the wedge driving this polarization lies in the middle of the second definition provided above.

Notice that the Oxford definition of political correctness describes this idea as “the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action […]” This notion that political correctness is often associated with extremism is the basis behind many of the negative views on political correctness. Unlike those who advocate for political correctness as an important, necessary step toward social equality and inclusion, those who denounce political correctness often describe this concept as a form of unnecessary overreaction and even censorship over our freedom of speech.

While the idea of political correctness may not be something we all agree with today, there is no question that members of society have benefited from politically corrective action in the past – civil rights movements, women’s rights movements, slavery abolishment, to name a few. Maybe this is why political correctness is seen as an overreaction today – because the forms of discrimination that are abundant today are often subtle, subliminal forms, such as when a person uses the phrase “that’s gay” to signify that they don’t like something. It seems that many of today’s forms of discrimination are indeed so subtle that we often do not even notice them, and therefore when calls for political correctness are heard they are often considered as taken to an extreme. Maybe if we stop using the term political correctness and talk more about empathy for others, we can remove this wedge and work together to truly promote equality and inclusion for all.

Self-concept and the Self-reference Effect


Who are you?
Most of us have many ways of answering that question. Athletic. Overweight. Smart.

The answer we reach for readily is usually centered on what we are most proud of or the circumstance of the asking such as during a job interview or at a gathering of dads.
Social psychologist would characterize your answer to the question as an expression of your self-concept which leads to a phenomenon called the self-reference effect.
Researchers have found that when information is relevant to our self-concept, we process the information quickly and will remember it clearly. In other words, most of us are very self-focused.

According to Meyers & Smith (2015), the results of our self-focus means :

  1. we overestimate the extent to which someone’s behavior is direct towards us (someone not say “Hi” back to you in a crowd)
  2. we tend to take credit for events in which we are minor actors
  3. we compare how someone behaves to our own motives
  4. hearing our name shifts our auditory focus
  5. we tend to agonize over things other people probably haven’t noticed

The protection from all the above is altruism.

Researchers such as Nakao (2012) have found that people who are altruistic tend to not to fall easily under the spell of the self-reference effect.


Nakao, T., Tokunaga, S., Takamura, M., Nashiwa, H., Hayashi, S., & Miyatani, M. (2012) Alturistic people show no self-reference effect in memory. Journal of General Psychology, 139(1), 22-41.

Myers, D., & Smith, S.(2015) Exploring Social Psychology 4th Edition. McGraw-Hill Ryerson, page 30.