Category Archives: Learning

Implicit Bias Test Might Not Be Rigorous Science

Source: Quartz, Dec 2017

the Implicit Association Test (IAT), from Yale’s freshmen to millions of people worldwide. Referencing the role of implicit bias in perpetuating the gender pay gap or racist police shootings is widely considered woke, while IAT-focused diversity training is now a litmus test for whether an organization is progressive.
This acclaimed and hugely influential test, though, has repeatedly fallen short of basic scientific standards.

The forgiving notion of unconscious prejudice has become the go-to explanation for all manner of discrimination, but the shaky science behind the IAT suggests this theory isn’t simply easy, but false. And if implicit bias is a weak scapegoat, we must confront the troubling reality that society is still, disturbingly, all too consciously racist and sexist.

The latest scientific research suggests there’s a very good reason why these well-meaning workshops have been so utterly ineffectual. 2017 meta-analysis that looked at 494 previous studies (currently under peer review and not yet published in a journal) from several researchers, including Nosek, found that reducing implicit bias did not affect behavior. “Our findings suggest that changes in measured implicit bias are possible, but those changes do not necessarily translate into changes in explicit bias or behavior,” wrote the psychologists.

“I was pretty shocked that the meta-analysis found so little evidence of a change in behavior that corresponded with a change in implicit bias,” Patrick Forscher, psychology professor at the University of Arkansas and one of the co-authors of the meta-analysis, wrote in an email.

In recent years, a series of studies have led to significant concerns about the IAT’s reliability and validity. These findings, raising basic scientific questions about what the test actually does, can explain why trainings based on the IAT have failed to change discriminatory behavior.

First, reliability: In psychology, a test has strong “test-retest reliability” when a user can retake it and get a roughly similar score. Perfect reliability is scored as a 1, and defined as when a group of people repeatedly take the same test and their scores are always ranked in the exact same order. It’s a tough ask. A psychological test is considered strong if it has a test-retest reliability of at least 0.7, and preferably over 0.8.

Current studies have found the race IAT to have a test-retest reliability score of 0.44, while the IAT overall is around 0.5 (pdf); even the high end of that range is considered “unacceptable” in psychology. It means users get wildly different scores whenever they retake the test.

The second major concern is the IAT’s “validity,” a measure of how effective a test is at gauging what it aims to test. Validity is firmly established by showing that test results can predict related behaviors, and the creators of the IAT have long insisted their test can predict discriminatory behavior. This point is absolutely crucial: after all, if a test claiming to expose unconscious prejudice does not correlate with evidence of prejudice, there’s little reason to take it seriously.

four separate (pdf) metaanalyses(pdf), undertaken between 2009 and 2015—each examining between 46 and 167 individual studies—all showed the IAT to be a weak predictor of behavior. Two of the meta-analyses focus on the race IAT while two examine the IAT’s links with behavior more broadly, but all four show weak predictive abilities.

When Banaji and Greenwald first came up with the phrase “implicit bias,” they claimed it reflected thinking that is “unavailable to self-report or introspection.” The research showing that people are aware of their implicit biases suggests this definition is suspect.

The meta-analyses showed that the IAT is no better at predicting discriminatory behavior (including microaggressions) than explicit measures of explicit bias, such as the Modern Racism Scale, which evaluates racism simply by asking participants to state their level of agreement with statements like, “Blacks are getting too demanding in their push for equal rights.”

In a 2014 paper (pdf) by Banaji, Greenwald, and Nosek, the authors seemed to acknowledge the concerns raised about the test: “IAT measures have two properties that render them problematic to use to classify persons as likely to engage in discrimination,” they wrote, pointing to the test’s poor predictive abilities and test-retest reliability.

But when I asked them directly, Greenwald and Banaji doubled down on their earlier claims. “The IAT can be used to select people who would be less likely than others to engage in discriminatory behavior,” wrote Greenwald in an email.

The meta-analyses and other psychologists I spoke to strongly disagree: “There is also little evidence that the IAT can meaningfully predict discrimination,” notes one paper, “and we thus strongly caution against any practical applications of the IAT that rest on this assumption.”


4 Ways to Structure a Talk

Source: Fast Company, Nov 2017


The starting point of persuasion is having a point–a message you believe in. Then you need a sound structure that lets you get your message across. … the need for proof points. Stating your message is rarely sufficient. You need evidence that encourages listeners to buy into that point of view. So after presenting what you believe, share why you believe it.


Building your case involves choosing the right pattern of organization for your points–and with impromptu speaking, you’ll often have to pick one in the blink of an eye. The secret is to learn the following four patterns and practice drawing on them repeatedly, choosing the right structure more or less intuitively as soon as you’re asked to share your thoughts.

1. Reasons. This pattern backs up your main point with reasons. Suppose your message is, “I believe we need a more inclusive working environment.” Your bullet points might be:

  • First, we’re way behind in hiring women and minorities.
  • Second, a diverse workforce leads to a better bottom line.
  • Third, inclusivity is the right thing to do!

Each bullet backs up why you see the issue the way you do.

2. Ways. This structure shows the ways your main point can be acted upon. Or it can refer to things that have to be done. Suppose your message is, “I know we can fix this situation for our customer.” Your bullet points would lay out the steps you might take to accomplish that:

  • First, we will interview our customer.
  • Second, we’ll assign a team to resolve the situation.
  • Third, we will follow through and make sure it’s fixed.

3. Situation/Response. Use this pattern when your message refers to a situation or challenge to be acted upon. It’s similar to the “ways” approach but focuses more on reacting to a particular circumstance than on presenting a sequential course of action: the first bullet describes the situation or challenge, while the second presents the response. Your message might be, “Although last year’s results came in below expectations, we’ve taken steps to turn the division around.”  Your bullet points would sound like this: 

  • Adverse economic conditions resulted in earnings that were 10% below projections last year
  • But our new product line and cost efficiencies should allow us to meet or exceed expectations this year.

4. Chronological. This pattern takes your listeners through a progression in time that elaborates your message. Say that your point is, “We have met our project commitments on schedule.” Your bullet points might sound like this:

  • When we launched this project, we said we would complete the installation in three years.
  • In the first year we achieved the goal we set.
  • In the second year we were ahead of schedule.
  • Today all of our commitments have been met.

To decide which structure to use, pause after the initial statement that delivers your message, and then choose which pattern you want. Make sure your points are arguments, not topics. That way you’ll be persuading, not just informing. 

Moving Hearts & Minds

Source:  Presentation Guru, Sep 2017


  1. Use metaphor
  2. Use stories and anecdote
  3. Show moral conviction
  4. Share the sentiments of the collective
  5. Set high expectations for yourself and your audience
  6. Communicate confidence that the goals your describing can be met
  7. Use simple specific rhetorical devices, including contrast (to frame and focus the message)
  8. Use lists (to give the impression of completeness)
  9. Use rhetorical questions (to create anticipation and puzzles that require an answer or a solution)


  1. Convey your emotional state, whether positive or negative, to demonstrate passion and obtain support for what is being said
  2. Use powerful body gestures, and unambiguous facial expressions for emphasis
  3. Use an animated voice tone

Maxwell’s Equations – Heaviside

Source:  Physics Today, Nov 2012

In 1884–85 Oliver Heaviside rewrote the 20 fundamental equations of Maxwell’s Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism into a new and more compact form that by the late 1890s had become standard. He eliminated the vector and scalar potentials A and Ψ from the equations and expressed the electromagnetic relations purely in terms of the electric and magnetic fields, E and H.

His most important step was to derive what he called the second circuital law, which relates the curl of E to the rate of change of H. Starting with Maxwell’s relation E = −∂A/∂t − ∇Ψ, Heaviside took the curl of both sides: ∇ × E = ∇(−∂A/∂t) − ∇ × ∇Ψ. Since the curl of any gradient is zero, the last term vanishes. By switching the order of the space and time differentiations, Heaviside obtained ∇ × E = −∂(∇ × A)/∂t. Since ∇ × A = μH, this yielded the second circuital law, ∇ × E = −μ∂H/∂t.
Heaviside then combined this with equations drawn from Maxwell’s Treatise to obtain his new set of four “Maxwell’s equations”:

  • ∇ · εE = ρ
  • ∇ × E = −μ∂H/∂t
  • ∇ · μH = 0
  • ∇ × H = kE + ε∂E/∂t,

where ε is the permittivity; μ the permeability; ρ the charge density; and k the conductivity.
Heaviside used what he called rational units, which eliminated the factors of 4π that otherwise appeared in so many electromagnetic equations.

Related Resources: Spectrum, Dec 2014

Maxwell’s own description of his theory was stunningly complicated. College students may greet the four Maxwell’s equations with terror, but Maxwell’s formulation was far messier. To write the equations economically, we need mathematics that wasn’t fully mature when Maxwell was conducting his work. Specifically, we need vector calculus, a way of compactly codifying the differential equations of vectors in three dimensions.

Maxwell’s theory today can be summed up by four equations. But his formulation took the form of 20 simultaneous equations, with 20 variables. The dimensional components of his equations (the x, y, and z directions) had to be spelled out separately. And he employed some counterintuitive variables. 

The net result of all of this complexity is that when Maxwell’s theory made its debut, almost nobody was paying attention.

The key was eliminating Maxwell’s strange magnetic vector potential. “I never made any progress until I threw all the potentials overboard,” Heaviside later said. The new formulation instead placed the electric and magnetic fields front and center.

One of the consequences of the work was that it exposed the beautiful symmetry in Maxwell’s equations. One of the four equations describes how a changing magnetic field creates an electric field (Faraday’s discovery), and another describes how a changing electric field creates a magnetic field (the famous displacement current, added by Maxwell).


Making Friends

Source: Fast Company, Jun 2017

Research by Nicholas Christakis at Yale found that relationships are the number one promoter of happiness in life.” A bigger network leads to bigger happiness, according to the Yale study. “When friends of friends become happier, it ripples through the social circle,” says Barker. “Your happiness can affect theirs.”



hang out at the office water cooler. One study shows that 70% to 90% of office gossip tends to be true, and knowing what’s going on helps you stay connected and get ahead, says Barker.

Taking the time to create work relationships has an added bonus: The best predictor of work team success is how the team members feel about each other


Similarity bonds people, connecting them across the widest range of things. The key to being liked is finding shared connections, and there’s a mountain of research to back it up, says Barker.

When you have conversations with new people, leverage this fact by highlighting similarities. “You don’t want to be sneaky and create similarities, but when you’re talking to someone, get to know them and highlight connections in a way that’s genuine and authentic,” says Barker.

Simply being a good listener is a great way to bond. Your brain gets more pleasure from talking about yourself



Making and keeping friends takes time, and the best way to follow through is to put it on your calendar

A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles’ opening chord

Source: ABC (Australia), Nov 2017
<see the original article to hear the chord>

It’s probably the most recognisable sound in popular music.

“This is the one chord that everyone around the world knows,” says Randy Bachman, a rock star in his own right from The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive.

It dates to July 1964 — the height of Beatlemania. The band was about to release its third album.

For the first time, it was all original music. Plus, the Beatles were shifting away from their rock ‘n’ roll roots to a more poppy sound, and this album was to be the soundtrack for their first feature film.

They needed to make a statement.

After a lot of experimentation, the band come up with a wondrous, jangling cacophony of sound: the opening chord to the song, album, and film A Hard Day’s Night.

Arthur C. Clarke: Magic and Technology

Source: Wikipedia, date indeterminate

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.