Unconscious bias is something I have been reading about and talking about for at least 15 years. So, while reading This is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science is Tackling Unconscious Bias, written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi and illustrated by Drew Shannon, I was a bit disturbed by my response to the direction to draw a picture of a math professor. I didn’t actually get to the drawing stage, luckily I did catch myself by that point, but the image that automatically flashed in my mind when told to draw a math professor was still a white man. This is just one example of what I imagine are many implicit biases that I still hold over many years of learning that they are harmful. This is Your Brain on Stereotypes has many selling points, but its target audience of children and young adults makes it the perfect book to combat the creation of stereotypes in the first place.
FYI: While Kyi expertly explains how the terms bias and stereotype do, in fact, mean different things, I am using them as synonyms in my review.
In less than 100 pages, Kyi and Shannon take us from the 1800s to today, showing us the impact that stereotypes have had on our day to day lives in both big and small ways. For those who say that certain stereotypes or unconscious biases no longer exist, Kyi and Shannon present multiple pieces of evidence that show that these stereotypes are still alive and well. Divided into five chapters, This is Your Brain talks about the neurology and psychology behind stereotypes, but it also focuses on how stereotypes have changed over time and how science might provide more answers for the future.
If raising consciousness is one of the first steps to counteracting bias, which several of the studies in this book seem to suggest, then putting this on the reading list for every middle school student seems like a good idea to me. I might have been reading and talking about this subject for many years, but having all of this information in front of me, in an accessible and engaging text for young readers, felt empowering. I can’t wait to share this text with readers and teachers.
Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards:
Justice 11: I relate to people as individuals and not representatives of groups, and I can name some common stereotypes I observe people using.
Justice 12: I can recognize and describe unfairness and injustice in many forms including attitudes, speech, behaviors, practices and laws.
Justice 13: I am aware that biased words and behaviors and unjust practices, laws and institutions limit the rights and freedoms of people based on their identity groups.
Justice 15: I know about some of the people, groups and events in social justice history and about the beliefs and ideas that influenced them.