The Emma Willard School community recently had the opportunity to learn from Harvard Professor Mahzarin Banaji, PhD, who has conducted extensive scientific inquiry into the parts of our brain that guide behavior and are hidden from our conscious mind. Her virtual presentation to students, parents, and alumnae acts as a catalyst for reflection and continued work on equity and inclusion in our community.
Dr. Banaji spoke with us on a significant date in the United States—the one year anniversary of the capitol insurrection, January 6. She reflected on that day and encouraged us to welcome and be open to a rich diversity of perspectives—to be intentionally open to difference. Dr. Banaji explored the challenges we all face in our desire to be open to a variety of perspectives given our “inattentional blindness,” parts of our experiences that never rise to our conscious awareness. The beliefs we hold (even unconsciously) direct our eyes and attention in a way that causes us to miss information that is not in line with our expectations. Dr. Banaji showed us how difficult and yet how important it is to become aware of these blindspots. Doing so allows us to better align our behaviors with our values.
At Emma Willard School we work every day on mastery—mastery of disciplines, athletics, leadership, artistic pursuits—but more importantly we are seeking mastery of ourselves. Dr. Banaji brought to the fore the power and importance of uncovering our blindspots. Engaging in the reflective and attentive work that Dr. Banaji shared will allow us to “use our conscious awareness for good.”
As we all face the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic that has required us to isolate, we are consciously aware of our deep need to engage with one another. It is in community where we are best able to foster our intellectual curiosity and grow our conscious awareness to serve and shape the world. If you would like to learn more about how you can leverage Dr. Banaji’s work in your own circle of influence, we invite you to visit the resources linked below.
Honoring its founder’s vision, Emma Willard School proudly fosters in each young woman a love of learning, the habits of an intellectual life, and the character, moral strength, and qualities of leadership to serve and shape her world.