“Implicit Bias”: Policy Group with Lasana Harris 6-8pm - All Welcome

Date & time: Location: Open Society Foundations

Join StopWatch at Open Society Foundations from 6-8pm on Monday 10th April for our policy group meeting with guest speaker Lasana T. Harris. Ph.D., Experimental Psychology, University College London.

Lasana’s work takes a social neuroscience approach to explain the worst of human behaviour. His research suggests reduced social cognition can affect legal decision-making, including police behaviour. This promises to be a fascinating and insightful event on implicit racial bias and the developments in neuroscience research on this phenomenon.


Describing their work, Lasana said:

"My work focuses on social cognition: the ability to infer the mental states (minds) of another agent. My use the word agent because this ability is extended to non-human agents in addition to people. Moreover, the ability is not unique to human beings; other species also have social cognitive abilities, though not as extensive. People show social cognitive abilities from early infancy, suggesting that this ability is essential for survival among our highly social species. My work explores how the social context determines when this ability is employed towards another agent, and theorises as to why people may have required social cognitive abilities to be flexibly employed.

Social cognition—thinking about the minds of others—can be withheld from other people, and extended to entities that do not have minds. Here, I present social neuroscience evidence regarding the boundary conditions that moderate social cognition engagement and withdrawal. I describe my initial research that documents reduces social cognition brain network engagement and reduced mental state inferences to highly stigmatised outgroups. I then demonstrate that this dehumanised perception can also be obtained to non-stigmatised, everyday people in social contexts that reward behaviour driven by non-social cognitive processes. I also present data that reduced social cognition can affect legal decision-making (including policing behaviour) and can inhibit social learning in economic contexts. I conclude by arguing that social cognition engagement during social interaction is the default, and social cognition is not simply cognition about ‘social’ agents, but a specialised form of cognition."



Dr. Harris completed his undergraduate education at Howard University, USA, in 2003 before finishing graduate school at Princeton University, USA, in 2007, where he earned his Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. Susan Fiske. He then completed post-doctorate research at New York University, USA, with Dr. Elizabeth Phelps in 2010, and held his first appointment as an Assistant Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, USA, until 2014. He was then an Assistant Professor in Social and Organizational Psychology at Leiden University, the Netherlands. Dr. Harris is now a Senior Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at University College London, UK, a position he has held since 2015. Dr. Harris’ research uses a social neuroscience approach to explore the neural correlates of person perception, prejudice, dehumanization, anthropomorphism, social learning, social emotions, empathy, and punishment. This research addresses questions such as: How do we see people as less than human, and non-human objects as human beings? How do we modulate affective responses to people? How do we decide right from wrong? By combining social psychology, affective and cognitive neuroscience with philosophy of mind, developmental psychology, evolutionary anthropology, economics, law and policy, this research focus is a comprehensive strategy to explore human behavior.


Our policy groups run about every 6-8 weeks, are free to attend and all are welcome.


Email info@stop-watch.org to let us know you are coming.

Event address

7th Floor
Millbank Tower
21-24 Millbank

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