About the “Get Smart! The Science Behind Making Better Decisions and Building Stronger Relationships” Keynote

Over the past half million years, the human brain has evolved to become the most sophisticated and successful survival computer that the planet has ever seen.

Containing over 100 billion neurons, each capable of linking into an almost infinite number of synaptic pathways, it is fast, adaptable and efficient. These characteristics have allowed humans to rise to and remain at the top of the planetary food chain. Quite simply, we can out-think any other species known.

At the same time, our brains are far from perfect. Some of the same characteristics that make them so successful actually get in our way as often as they help us. That’s because efficiency and speed often come at the cost of accuracy. Without even realizing it, we take mental shortcuts that often lead us to make inaccurate assessments of the situations and people with whom we deal. Put us in stressful environments, and a whole different array of short cuts, compromises and trade-offs emerge. Welcome to the world of unconscious bias.

“Neuroscience has shown that people can identify another person’s apparent race, gender and age in a matter of milliseconds. In this blink of an eye, a complex network of stereotypes, emotional prejudices and behavioral impulses activates.”
Susan T. Fiske, Ph.D. (Professor of Psychology, Princeton University)

The first goal of this presentation will be to explore the nature and types of biases that affect behaviors and decision making at both individual and group levels. By understanding the biological limitations in our mental processing capabilities and how our brains attempt to compensate, we can better recognize the mechanics of faulty decisions and interaction styles. This then sets the stage for pursuing our second goal, which is to develop strategies to help minimize the potentially negative impact of bias on us both individually and as organizations.

Key Themes

  • Explore bias as a core human thought tendency
  • Identify the different types of cognitive bias that compromise decision making at individual and group levels
  • Discuss the nature of and how the brain uses implicit bias (bias about personal characteristics) to protect itself
  • Recognize how implicit bias leads to exclusion and disengagement
  • Learn and practice techniques for recognizing and interrupting both implicit and cognitive bias patterns
  • Develop a group plan of action for promoting inclusive policies and behaviors