How Norms Change

… Understanding the psychology of changing norms starts from a simple insight: although we may wish to be perfectly rational and impartial, bias is an inescapable part of what it means to be human. …

The question, therefore, isn’t “Do biases exist?” but, rather, “How much do we let them affect our behavior?” In 1990, Susan Fiske and Steven Neuberg, then psychologists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Arizona State University, respectively, described the process by which bias sways behavior using what they called the “continuum model of impression formation.” According to their model, our reliance on stereotypes in decision-making exists on a continuum and shifts by degrees, rather than operating in absolutes. No one is ever bias-free, but some people let their biases influence their actions more than others. CONT.

Maria Konnikova, New Yorker