Pub talk will explore ways to move past implicit biases

Image illustrates removing labels as part of a talk by Erik Girvan

In an emotionally charged political environment, it’s easy to make snap judgments, take the news that one agrees with at face value, assume the worst about the news we don’t and fall back on stereotypical thinking.

A key to achieving critical thinking and sound judgment is understanding biases, according to Erik Girvan of the UO School of Law. People need to understand how those biases affect them and some of the ways they counter them,

Girvan will expand on a series of discussions and workshops that he’s been leading at the UO into a Quack Chats pub talk. At 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 13, Girvan will speak on “Overcoming Implicit Bias and Getting Along With Others.”

The pub talk will be held at the Ax Billy Grill & Sports Bar, on the third floor of the Downtown Athletic Club, 999 Willamette St. Admission is free. Food and drinks are available for purchase.

In his campus presentations, Girvan asks a basic question: How can people's race, sex, age and other characteristics influence the way others see and treat them even when they are genuinely trying to be unbiased? By addressing the concept of implicit bias, he explores how the brain naturally perceives, categorizes and draws inferences about the world, including other people.

From there, he provides guidance for how to reduce or eliminate those rumblings in the brain.

For his campus constituents, his message resonates with people serving on search committees for new employees or hiring managers. In his own research, he also finds that biases exist in many areas, including the judicial system where even jurors, judges and ultimate legal decisions can be affected.

In his Quack Chats talk, Girvan will expand his talk with a broader set of issues, including partisan polarization and the assumptions that people tend to make about those that they disagree with.

“Our identities — political, social and otherwise — shape our opinions more than we tend to realize,” he said. “When we take the opportunity to set those aside, we often are surprised how much agreement is there.”

Quack Chats, a program of University Communications, is operating on a reduced summer schedule. Once monthly pub talks will be held on the second Wednesday through September. Twice-monthly Quack Chats will resume in October.

To learn more about upcoming Quack Chats, see the Quack Chats section on Around the O. A general description of Quack Chats and a calendar of additional Quack Chats and associated public events also can be found on the UO’s Quack Chats website.