This course has offered several opportunities to explore topics that we experience every day, but not necessarily talk about in our education. Microaggressions, biases, and diversity are likely going to greater subjects of discussion in the workplace than the topics we talk about in other block classes. The takeaways from this course are immediately applicable as we are immersed in group projects and job interviews. What we learned from this course and how we use the experience at Mason will later become valuable tools for our professional lives.
The first experience that comes to mind in terms of exercises that struck a chord is the online simulation from the beginning of the course. It's very easy to talk about encouraging diversity and handling microaggressions, but many of us have no clue what actually addressing things like this entail. I have never been in a scenario that called for me speaking up for a microaggression that was committed against a peer. I feel as though that is harder to address than an injustice committed upon yourself because in that situation, you typically know the facts of what happened and, of course, what your own beliefs and values are. However, in the scenario we were presented with in the simulation, we had to actively interject into another person's battle and fight for values that they might not even possess. That was definitely a new experience for me and what I learned from how I reacted in that situation gives me a base for the next inevitable time I will have to stand up for myself or someone else. This simulation reminded me of I took Professor Guthrie's Diversity in the Workplace course. It was an excellent class, but we spent the entirety of the semester only talking about how to be inclusionary and an upstander. We never got the chance to put what we learned in action, so I was excited to be able to see how much I actually gained from that course. I'm a relatively introverted person but I do have strong beliefs and diverse thought about topics that are likely to come up in the workplace. That being said, my main takeaway is that once you get over the hump of the fear of speaking up, the outcome of your intervention will likely have a strong positive impact, as it did in this simulation.
Another resource that stood out to me from this course is the TedTalk by Dan Ariely. I'm not certain we ever got the chance to discuss this video on being in control of our own decisions in class, but I'm sure my classmates would have had interesting things to say about it. The main point that struck a chord with me in this video was Ariely's discussion of the study on organ donation in European countries. It made me upset to learn that I'm not as aware of my preferences as I thought I was (Ariely 2008). This specific example applies explicitly to me because I when I first received my driver's license, I had every intention to be an organ donor but never saw the check box to sign up as such—and then I never thought about it again. Now, reflecting on Ariely's presentation, I wonder if there were other psychological factors going into that decision I wasn't aware of. The presentation lead me to realize that we are subjected to so many decisions every day that it would be impossible for every one of those decisions to be our own. This realization really caught my attention as a marketing major. In our Principles class, we often talk about how people's purchasing decisions can be influenced by outside factors, but never to an extent like this. A mindset like Dan Ariely's, wherein consumers can be influenced up to every decision they make throughout the day through making simple changes, should be used to a marketer's advantage. I think it would be interesting to discuss this TedTalk in the marketing arena—especially in uncovering to what point influence on preferences is ethical. I will keep this presentation in the back of my mind throughout the rest of my college career as a marketing major and through my professional career as a marketer.
The final source of learning that I think is important to touch on is the IAT testing activity. We learned that implicit biases impact our everyday and professional lives frequently. We also learned that it's hard—if not impossible—to identify our own implicit biases. These two ideas are mutually conflicting. How do we try to make decisions without implicit biases if we don't know what our own are? I think the IAT tests play an interesting role in the answer to this question. Drawing on my personal experience with the test, I would argue that they are not yet advanced enough to accurately predict what a person's preferences or biases are. For example, I took some on my own time and learned that I possess a “strong automatic preference” for those of homosexual orientation and for those of old age. As a heterosexual, young person, I'm not sure if I completely buy the accuracy of these results. I do not detest old or homosexual people, but I am shocked to learned that I apparently have strong preferences to groups that I identify so little with. I think it all has to do with how well you are at quickly pushing buttons. However, it did make me aware that these biases exist. Even though I would've never thought of my internal beliefs on sexuality and age would affect any sort of decision I'm making, this test is eye-opening because it makes you aware that such biases do exist for many people. Going forward, I would like to take more IAT's on issues that I might have stronger feelings toward, such as “Gender-Science” or “Gender-Career”. From the IAT's, I want to takeaway that implicit biases are very real and try to be open-minded and candid about any injustice I experience, whether it be in a group project at Mason or in my future career.
This course has provided me with new perspectives on how much of an impact topics like diversity and psychological influence have on everyday operations and decisions. As one of the more useful classes in the block, besides that of maybe our major courses, it's important to attempt carry the knowledge and experience gained from this course as far as it will go in order to become a bright, just, and compassionate human.
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