Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Situationist - Interview with Professor Eric Knowles

Interesting conversation, via The Situationist blog, an offering of The Project on Law & Mind Science at Harvard Law School. For those who are not familiar with situationist thinking, here is a brief introduction:

About Situationism

Situationism is premised on the social scientific insight that the naïve psychology—that is, the highly simplified, affirming, and widely held model for understanding human thinking and behavior—on which our laws and institutions are based is largely wrong. Situationists (including critical realists, behavioral realists, and related neo-realists) seek first to establish a view of the human animal that is as realistic as possible before turning to legal theory or policy. To do so, situationists rely on the insights of scientific disciplines devoted to understanding how humans make sense of their world—including social psychology, social cognition, cognitive neuroscience, and related disciplines—and the practices of institutions devoted to understanding, predicting, and influencing people’s conduct—particularly market practices. Jon Hanson & David Yosifon, The Situation: An Introduction to the Situational Character, Critical Realism, Power Economics, and Deep Capture, 152 U. Pa. L. Rev. 129, 149–77 (2003).

Situationism has been applied to such topics as power economics, natural disasters, obesity, commerical speech and junk-food advertising, Supreme Court dynamics, racial injustice, affirmative action, race and rape, employment discrimination, employee adherence to workplace rules, legitimization of war, inside counsel, corporate law, and player autonomy in the National Basketball Association, among other topics.

For more on situationism, visit The Project on Law and Mind Sciences‘s website.

OK, now to the post and video.

From The Project on Law & Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School (PLMS):

Here is an illuminating interview of Situationist Contributor Eric Knowles by Harvard Law student Anna Lamut. The interview, titled “On Moral Judgment and Normative Questions” lasts just over 72 minutes. It was conducted as part of the Law and Mind Science Seminar at Harvard taught by Situationist Contributor Jon Hanson.

Eric Knowles is an assistant professor of Psychology & Social Behavior, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley. The following blurb from his website describes his research:

“When does inequality seem like inequity? Broadly speaking, my research examines how people perceive and react to the fact that some groups in society have more than others. I am especially interested in how different types of motivations — e.g., to bolster the hierarchy, to see oneself as a good and deserving person — lead people to deny the existence of inequity, dis-identify with their ingroup, or form attitudes likely to reduce intergroup disparities.”

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Table of Contents

:20 – What does your research focus on generally?

2:48 – What does it mean to make color-blindness work for you?

6:08 – What does “hierarchy attenuation” mean?

10:00 – What are some other ideas that get co-opted in this way?

14:58 – Back to the point you made about patriotism, do you feel that the Conservatie interpretation has been “winning” in recent years?

20:25 – Is this a topic you are planning to undertake in your research?

22:25 - Moving to your 2009 article entitled “Racial prejudice predicts opposition to Obama and his healthcare plan,” how did you develop the methodology?

24:10 – How did you choose to use the Go-No Go Association Task rather than the Implicit Association Test for the study?

41:04 – For the portion of the study where you asked those respondents who tested positive for implicit racial bias about their reasons for opposing Obama, were they able to submit their own reasons or did they choose from a list?

41:55 – This theme–of individuals finding legitimate-sounding justifications for beliefs that may originate in racism–seems related to those discussed in your piece, “Preference, principle, and political casuistry.” Would you agree?

44:43 – What are some other reasons people do this?

45:30 – In “Preference, principle, and political casuistry,” you refer to this process as a hybrid view between preference and principle. Could you expand on this?

51:14 – Would you say that this broadens the explanatory power for the theory, that it would then apply also to individuals’ reasoning about issues that are not explicitly tied to race?

51:52 – What are your thoughts on the critique of the study of implicit racial bias, as stated in Charles Lawrence’s article, “Unconscious Racism Revisited,” that studies of implicit racial bias “normalize” racism by explaining it as a product of our brains’ natural propensity to categorize, and that these studies therefore do not address group or institutional racism?

62:39 – How is your research applicable to Lawrence’s critique in that it addresses the effect of these individual biases on group decision-making, such as elections?

65:45 – How did you get interested in the topics that you now research?

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Eric Knowles is one of the confirmed presenters at the 2011 PLMS conference on “The Psychology of Inequality.”

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Fifth Annual PLMS Conference – Save the Date,” “Jim Sidanius ‘Terror, Intergroup Violence, and the Law’,” “The Palliative Function of Ideology,” The Blame Frame – Abstract,” Barbara Ehrenreich on the Sources of and Problems with Dispositionism,” The Motivated Situation of Inequality and Discrimination,” John Jost on System Justification Theory,” John Jost’s “System Justification and the Law” – Video,” The Situation of Political and Religious Beliefs?,” “The Situation of Ideology – Part I,” and “The Situation of Ideology – Part II.”

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