Professor Laura Scherer of the University of Missouri Department of Psychological Sciences recently presented a research-based lecture on the topic of implicit bias at the School of Law. Professor Scherer was introduced by James S. Rollins Professor of Law Martha Dragich on behalf of the Mizzou Law One Read Planning Group.
The event was also broadcast as a live stream to the University of Oregon School of Law because implicit bias is the express focus of their master’s program in conflict and dispute resolution this year. Hopefully, according to Professor Dragich, Oregon will reciprocate with a program for Mizzou Law’s Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution.
In her presentation, Professor Scherer used widely-replicated data from psychology labs that demonstrate that stereotyping and implicit judgements are automatic and that those stereotypes do not have to be endorsed to influence a person’s behavior and actions. Moreover, Professor Scherer pointed to J.L. Eberhardt’s research that shows a positive correlation between black stereotypical appearances and death penalty sentences.
A brief question and answer period followed the interdisciplinary lecture.
Professor Scherer’s lecture represents a continued focus by the Mizzou Law community on issues of race and the experience of otherness that was started this year by the One Read program, in which the Mizzou Law community read Bryan Stevenson’s memoir Just Mercy.
After the presentation, Professor Dragich and Cindy Bassett, the law school’s electronic services librarian, organized a follow-up discussion to provide the law school community to discuss the idea of implicit bias.
“I left the presentation a bit disheartened,” said Bassett, “mostly because the focus of the presentation was on what we do now, and not as much on what we can do differently.
“So, I came to the discussion with my ears open for solutions, and by this, I mean solutions for myself. I have implicit biases, some of which I have become aware of over time and others that I am certain are still in the operating system of my unconscious. One solution that I was reminded of at the discussion was mindfulness. I am working to be awake not only to my actions and choices and how they affect others, but also to the thoughts, assumptions and past decisions that lead to those actions.”