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Culture & Religion

“Secret Racism”

Shankar Vedantam’s new book “The Hidden Brain” is based on his belief that the human brain can reveal biases such as racism that we would avoid consciously acknowledging.

“Shankar Vedantam, a science writer with the Washington Post, uses [famously racist] Michael Richards in his new book, ‘The Hidden Brain,’ to illustrate the way he believes our unconscious can betray us — and reveal biases we wouldn’t even acknowledge to ourselves. Vedantam uses a wide array of vivid true stories to make his point: The tragic tale of a woman who is brutally beaten in front of dozens of onlookers illustrates how a crowd’s inaction can trick our brain into ignoring pleas for help; two transsexuals who’ve experienced both sides of the gender divide help illuminate how unconscious sexism can change lives.” He says: “The hidden brain is a term I devised. It’s a shorthand term that’s broadly used to describe unconscious influences in everyday life. I decided to coin it because it was a useful writing device, like Richard Dawkins used the selfish gene, as a way to explain these cognitive processes. I’d describe it as anything that we’re not aware of that is influencing us.”


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