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UAlbany Forum Tackles Unconscious Bias

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 7, 2016) -- Research demonstrates that we all harbor unconscious biases: mental shortcuts that we routinely use when confronted with complex situations or incomplete information. This can lead to quick judgments of people and situations influenced by our background, culture, environment and personal experiences. On April 13, the University at Albany will host Tufts University social psychologists Samuel Sommers and Keith Maddox to explore the ways in we can overcome these tendencies through awareness and training.

Tufts University professors Samuel Sommers and Keith Maddox
Tufts University psychologists Samuel Sommers, left,
and Keith Maddox, right, will speak on the science of unconscious biases at UAlbany on April 13.

The forum will be held in the Campus Center Ballroom on the Uptown Campus from 1 to 3 p.m.

"Research indicates that acknowledgement and education are two of the initial major steps toward moving from unconscious bias to conscious decision making," said UAlbany Chief Diversity Officer and Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Tamra Minor. "In our continued effort toward inclusive excellence, we want to provide opportunities for the University community to recognize our unconscious biases and create an environment where diverse teams can work, succeed and thrive."

"Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts we use to cope with situations we do not have time or ability to fully comprehend, but they lead our reasoning astray and can produce undesirable effects, including poor decisions and prejudice." said Tomek Strzalkowski, director of the Institute for Informatics, Logics and Security Studies and professor of computer science at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Sommers, an associate professor of psychology at Tufts, is an experimental social psychologist. He studies issues related to stereotyping, prejudice, and group diversity. He is the author of Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World, and he blogs regularly for Psychology Today and the Huffington Post.

Maddox is an associate professor of psychology and director of the Tufts University Social Cognition Lab. His research focuses on social cognitive aspects of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. The long-range goal of his work is to further the understanding of the representation of stereotypic knowledge and its implications for the behavior and treatment of members of stereotyped groups.

UAlbany’s ILS has examined the issue of implicit bias in critical decision-making. A team of researchers and game designers led by Strzalkowski earned a gold medal at the 2015 International Serious Play Awards competition for developing a serious game that trains people to overcome dependence on cognitive biases in their decision-making. CYCLES Carnivale, an educational game designed by 1st Playable Productions and researchers at the University at Albany, Syracuse University, Colorado State University, University of Arizona, and Temple University won the top prize in the competition’s Government/Military category.

The forum is sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and ILS.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.