Stereotypes Threaten Your Brain’s Well-Being: Memory, Anxiety, Motivation | Valerie Purdie Greenaway


JENNIFER BROWN: I’m going to jump right
in Valerie. Tell the group, what do you do now for your
professional calling? Why do you love it? And tell us what motivated us originally to
study what you study? VALERIE PURDIE GREENAWAY: So my day job is
I am a professor of psychology, so I teach at Columbia University and I teach in the
department of psychology, so I teach cultural psychology. Everything from how does your brain change
when you go on vacation to how does stigma and bias and as an outsider—identity—how
does it affect our neurological functioning, our psychological functioning and our workplace
functioning? I also have a research lab, and so just like
the movies it’s actually in the basement. And so we bring people into the laboratory
and what we try to do is we try to study what I call insider and outsider dynamics. And insiders are people who are historically,
say, part of a company. It could be the five people that started a
company, or the group that is indigenous to a neighborhood, or a country or any kind of
group. And then outsiders are those who are underrepresented
in some way, who have some kind of outsider status in some way. So you can think about this in the context
of gender or race or ethnicity or religion, but you can also think about it in terms of
who in a company went to one particular school versus another. You can think about it in terms of the founders
of a company or people whose parents have always worked in corporate America versus
those who are new. So what I like and what I have started to
show is that the insider-outsider dynamics may be local in terms of what the group is,
but everybody experiences outsider status in some context, everyone experiences insider
status in some context. And so I’ve been doing a lot of work on
what does that look like, what does that feel like, what are the neurological underpinnings
and how can we bridge those gaps? Whenever I talk to companies a starting point
is: what is the structure of the company that either facilitates performance of all groups
or undermines performance of all groups? So rather than sort of looking inside people
for talent, looking at personality matrixes, we really need to think about what is the
structure of the company? And I’ll give you a couple of different
examples. But where stereotype comes in, and stereotype
threat comes in, is the general idea that when you belong to a group that has some kind
of outsider status and you are in a really hot performance situation, you’re taking
a CPA exam, you’re giving an interview, it’s right before year end evaluations. If you belong to a group of which there are
stereotypes about your intellectual ability—so, for instance African Americans not being particularly
smart, women not being particularly smart, but only in the area of like mathematical
performance and engineering… JENNIFER BROWN: According to the Google memo
writer that would be a true statement. VALERIE PURDIE GREENAWAY: In those contexts
there is a worry about being seen through the lens of that stereotype and that that
can undermine performance, actual workplace performance. And so you can see it on literally—so take
a slice of the brain—you can see the part of the brain, the amygdala that’s associated
with anxiety is sort of amplified, and the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that’s
associated with learning and memory, is sort of tamped down. But what that translates into is three things. One is your workplace performance just is
not as good as it could be. Two, your brain is doing double duty: you’re
worried about how others are viewing you, you’re sort of contending with these stereotypes
as well as doing your work. But three, it undermines motivation. So you just can’t give it your all. And I would actually add a fourth piece to
it, is that it undermines your ability to be authentic. So when you think about an authentic self,
are you going to be creative? Are you going to bring your creative self
to work? You can’t do that when you’re constantly
constrained with contending with the stereotypes. And so the piece of it that I try to help
people understand is that it’s very, very subtle. For instance I was working with a financial
firm and a woman told me a fantastic—well for me it’s fantastic but it’s not so
fantastic—a story about how she was on a panel and on this panel they had chairs, and
the chairs were sort of the height of a standard man. So she’s on this barstool with her legs
kind of swinging in the breeze. JENNIFER BROWN: I’ve been there. It doesn’t occur to people, these are uncomfortable. VALERIE PURDIE GREENAWAY: And sort of feeling
kind of really small. And this is a structural feature. It’s just a chair. But it’s just another reminder that her
identity and physiology is actually one of outsider status. Those chairs were not made for her. And you might think about it, “Well why
are we talking about chairs?” It’s one instance in which it’s just a
cognitive reminder of insider/outsider. You know you can think about this in terms
of extramural sports that they have at work which are great ways to get people to come
together. But also it’s another reminder of an insider-outsider
dimension: Those who can play and those who can’t. And even if you can’t play you have to pretend
like you can play. JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right.

63 thoughts on “Stereotypes Threaten Your Brain’s Well-Being: Memory, Anxiety, Motivation | Valerie Purdie Greenaway

  1. I was enjoying the video until this very witty comment at 2:57 by the lady in the left.
    However, what I got from the video is that homogenous groups without outsiders are more productive than groups that include outsiders. This goes a bit against the usual narrative of pro-diversity of this channel, so I am left confused.

  2. Title of the video is off. It should be something like "Worrying About What Others Think Of You Undermines Productivity."

  3. lol the guy who wrote the google menu didnt say women are dumb, he compared how men and women are different in terms of mental function. You lost me at 3:12.

  4. So how about those solutions? Let's picture a special small chair, or maybe all the chairs are small? How does that make things better "for everyone"? How about teaching outsiders how to manage their anxiety and negative thoughts? Have you considered that?

  5. Meh. If you feel like an outsider at an area that chances are that you don't have talent at it anyway. If you evaluate your worth in something based on generalized stereotypes instead of working on building your craft then it just means that you don't have what it takes.

  6. So this lady goes to companies and introduces intersectionality based on unfounded stereotypes? She is literally inventing discrimination where it doesn't exist.

  7. Btw this is someone who young black women should model not someone shaking their ass on the tv screen in these rap videos for money.

  8. I'm all for diversity and inclusion but beating the subject to death inadvertently creates strife by forcing people to focus on their differences.

  9. Is the goal of these professions to create a world where no one is ever uncomfortable or feels out of place? Because we wouldn't want anyone to ever feel bad, now would we? Life is about the uncomfortable. Stop trying to wrap everyone in cotton wool.

  10. I think it’s impossible to survive in this world without prejudice and stereotype. Patterns exist and it’s important to be aware of them. A person who walks at night through a dark alley in a minority neighborhood with the mindset that it’s all fine because we’re all equally likely to commit crime… that person is a fool and a danger to themselves.

    What people need to learn is to discriminate rationally.

  11. The prison population is overwhelmingly male, and they operate on a gender-segregated basis. We need to ensure the equal opportunity for women to fill prisons as men. Stop gender segregation in prisons and convict both men and women equally!

  12. well this video was wasted on a large portion of its viewers :/
    Seems like a lot of people literally don't have the perspective to be able to understand what she really is talking about. Which is both kind of scary and more than a bit depressing

  13. First point: Stereotype threat is not real. Read the literature. It's completely unsupported. Same with implicit bias. Second: Stereotypes are instinctual. Stereotyping is an evolved adaptive inborn trait of the human brain. Stereotypes are statistical inferences based on observations. Stereotypes can be wrong because of faulty input information from which the inference was made, but as humans evolved it was better to be wrong than to be dead. We can have a discussion about stereotypes and whether they're good, bad, or maladaptive; but it needs to include all that we already scientifically know about this human trait.

  14. So young, good looking women tend to wear short skirts with high heels that show their legs is a stereotype that both of you are demonstrating. Does it make you worse off?

  15. Totally agree this exists, if I do something that someone associates with a negative stereotype in their mind then their perception of me has totally degraded. If you are worried about this and try to not show your true authentic self as she was saying it really degrades your natural performance because you have to tip-toe around other people because they might have perception of you your always trying to avoid.

    Everyone in the comments is right, you can't remove negative bias or discrimination completely, you need to think rationally about the outcome and not really give a fuck about what anyone else thinks of you and just do what you do!

  16. Worth noting that stereotype threat has no evidence for real world effect, and that as soon as you introduce some actual gain for doing well, the effect cannot be reproduced. Basically, if you know that getting good grades on a test will help, hearing that your race or gender generally does badly on a test will not make your scores go down.

  17. She talks about the woman who's feet wouldn't touch the ground cause the chair was too big, and how that was a reminder to her of outsider status.
    On the flip side, as a guy who's almost six foot two, when I sit on subways or buses, I'm a little too big for the average size the chairs were made for, and if I take up more room than the average, I'm accused of manspreading.. This is a "structural" thing that makes me feel like an outsider.. I'm glad this woman is fighting that… she's fighting that right? She's on my side that I shouldn't be accused of manspreading just because just for not fitting in the majority's size seat, right?! …I feel so alone..
    Maybe being white and male eliminates my ability to be an outsider in any and all contexts, they over shadow all other aspects of me, and therefore I'm outside her groups of consideration… but even being outside, I can't be an outsider, because I'm white and male.. Maybe it's good that I'm outside, after all, somewhere in the world their is a white male CEO, so maybe as someone who shares his skin color and sex, I can pay for his sins of having power and wealth, by my problems being ignored, since his problems aren't, that will even things out.. it's the least I can do… Hitler was white and male, and so am I.. I have a lot of other people's sins to make up for.. I guess that's where the term "white savior complex" comes from, Jesus died for sins committed by others, and as a white male, I need to make up for what other white males have done.. I just hope I can end racism and sexism by feeling guilty enough of behalf of others who share my skin color and sex.

  18. Although we did not hear the presentation in it entirety, it is somewhat irresponsible to place your finger on the problem without providing a solution as this video clip does. I believe one of the solutions is the promotion of professional conduct. Companies that give merit to increased professional attitudes will combat the "stereotype threat" while benefiting from diversity by approaching challenges with the varying perspectives represented. Professionalism is for both "outsiders" and "insiders" as those very terms are stereotypes themselves.

  19. The google memo did not say women were less smart or capable at math. it said they are less interested in certain careers (with lots of evidence cited to back it up). Either you were ignorant of that fact or you lied about it anyway. In either case you discredited yourselves and it would be hard to trust anything else you say as a result.

  20. I find it difficult to properly summarize this video. On one hand it is intelligent, accurate and concise while at the same time it has just a moment of implied rejection of truth and it implies that truth hurts people.

    Google memo is the truth. Speakers here did not directly reject the memo, but it was implied. Rejecting the truth because you don’t like it and forcing other to ignore it always entails bad consequences.

    Men and women are different. Just look at fashion and boxing to make it super obvious. You may not like stereotypes, but they help because they are statistically true, which is the point of a stereotype. If it were not true, it wouldn’t be a stereotype. Jews have big noses, Irish get drunk, Blacks have “Afro” hair. Are all members of the group the same? Not even close! This is why everyone should be judged as a person, an individual- not as a heard member.

    This does nothing in saying that averages are not true. Men are on average more aggressive than women, and that is why most violent crimes are perpetrated by men. Women are on average more caring that men, which is why women tend to be nurses and kindergarten teachers.

    In fighting stereotypes don’t be thinking that it is the truth that is the enemy. Baseless generalization is. Don’t assume that all women are nurses or all men are violent or that all Irish are drunk. More locally, reject that all white people have privilege , and that all African Americans are victims and so on. This is the most racist thing you can do- apply attribute to every member on bases of some superficial, immutable characteristic. Don’t be fight windmills. Treat each person as an individual- not a group member. It’s not rocket science.

    Thank you for reading.

  21. A woman knows she will be sitting on a chair on a stage; is it compulsory, peer group pressure that makes them wear short skirts/dresses?

  22. The thing is, many smart women don't achieve their full potential because they choose to do women studies instead of doing something productive.
    Many black people study civil rights and they protest for every single shit out there instead of becoming the next Neil deGrasse Tyson.
    Young black men aspire to become pimps and thugs instead of scientists and engineers.
    If you want more women and POC in STEM, go study STEM.
    If you want to break "bad at math" stereotype, you will break it by proving the stereotype wrong.
    You will not prove anything if you cry about it and do nothing about it personally.
    You will not achieve anything by trying to force others to do it while not leading by example.
    Do some POSITIVE feedback loop for target demographic, not a NEGATIVE feedback for everybody else!
    Neil deGrasse Tyson did more for future black scientists than any black activist, those activists probably have the opposite effect.
    Dana Scully did a lot for women scientists, agents and similar, more than any of those activists crying "misogyny"… and she is a god damn fictional character.
    Instead of leading by example and having your media celebrate those examples, you would rather give "a women of the year" award to a person that was a man for 65 years and then say it
    was extremely brave. Well, next time when a firefighter walks out of a burning building with a half-burnt face, carrying a child in one arm and a dog in the other, you can say: "this person is just like Caitlyn Jenner!"

  23. Just to add another view to the topic. "Stereotype Threat" is exaggerated, according to Heterodox Academy – https://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/12/30/is-stereotype-threat-overcooked-overstated-and-oversold/

  24. Stereotypes are just simplified categorizations, our brains have made to survive to evolve to the where we are today. So quit bitching about little shit

  25. Unfortunately, when clicking on this video, I was expecting to indulge in the premise that certain neurological behavior can inhibit the ability to further our intellect with regards to race and our brains. Don't get me wrong, I have all respect for free will. By being a racist, you're not killing anyone(hopefully). Your not stealing, by being a racist. It should not be illegal to think in a certain way. The only caveat is the failed social interactions one may have upon every encounter when deciding to hate race X, or gender Y. There are few ways to have pleasant or successful interactions with a race or gender you hate. That means failed social engagements day after day, week after week, 12 months a year, year after year. I am personally the type who does not like to fail anything, so I will sacrifice failed social engagements for accepting race X or gender Y. Trust me I understand that 99.9% of the world are bigots. Since kindergarten not everyone has gotten along, so I don't know where this idea that everyone should like each other came from. But I was hoping this video would provide some scientific evidence regarding the neurological repercussions which follow these failed social engagements.

  26. What happened to this poor channel? They used to have brilliant scientists and experts on. Now it's just a platform for activism…

  27. Being reading some of the comments below and I can see lots of misunderstaning. This research shows that stereotypes and outsider feelings can cloud your ability to perform well at probably any mental or behavioral task, such as remembering something, coming up with creative ideas in a meeting, impressing someone with an elevator pitch or present yourself as a likeable or attractive person. Hence the importante of overcoming stereotypes and making this world a more inclusive place. In fact this video reminded me of the work of Amy Cuddy on “presence”. She says that you can work with yourself in order to overcome whatever is holding you back in that special moment when you want your presence to shine.

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