By Riya Chopra
PSYCH 148S: “The Psychology of Bias: Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination” is a three-unit course where students gain an understanding of societal bias and ways to combat it. The class incorporates research and studies from social, cognitive, affective, developmental, cultural and neural perspectives to analyze the processes that reflect and perpetuate group biases.
Taught by psychology social Ph.D. students Nick P. Camp and Camilla M. Griffiths, the course explores bias in terms of identity groups such as race, gender and age. Students also analyze precursors of bias, different elements of bias, levels of analysis and the different perspectives of bias.
Griffiths is entering her fourth year as a Ph.D. student and the topic of bias is highly pertinent to her research.
“I’m interested in hearing from students that have or haven’t taken psychology classes before and their perspective on the topics that I’m really passionate about and that drive my research,” Griffiths said.
Camp hopes that by teaching this class, students will learn the different processes of bias, how to think about these processes, and what they can do to address and change them for the better. The class is open to all students, from high school to graduate students. No background in psychology is necessary.
“People come from so many different backgrounds and personal experiences. Some people have taken classes in psychology and some haven’t, so there’s a little bit of everything,” Camp said. “I think that actually makes the course better.”
Natalie Shabahang, a senior at the University of Michigan, is interested in the scientific aspect of bias and where it stems from.
“I hope to gain a more nuanced understanding of the different functions that go through someone’s head before they ultimately come to the behaviors they actually perform in real life that reflect bias,” Shabahang said.
Robert W. King, on the other hand, has practiced respiratory care in hospitals and community clinics for several years and has seen the results of racial bias in medicine firsthand.
“I find racial bias in medical care, in emergency rooms, in pain medications [and] in classes and instructions that are given to patients, and I’m trying to learn how to combat that so we can get equal access to health care through education,” King said.
PSYCH 148S is two-hour, twice a week discussion-based course with several research analyses, student presentations, external readings and occasional lectures. As part of the class’ participation requirement, which is 35 percent of the final grade, students are expected to complete an assignment called the QuALMRI (Question, Alternative hypotheses, Logic & design, Method, Results and Inferences). For the QuALMRI, students outline a specific study from the course’s external readings in a short and interesting way, such as a joke.
Halfway through the course, students will work with group members to examine the role of bias in a real-world topic, such as criminal justice or media, and present their findings to the class. They will identify a problem in their topic area and describe how at least two psychological processes that they learned in the course contribute to this problem. For the final project, students use these presentations and apply material from the course to real-world examples in an essay.
This application to daily life is one reason Lorrena Ferrarini, a sophomore in high school, took the course.
“I really hope to learn what I do right and wrong in my everyday life, why I do this, so if it’s something I shouldn’t do I can change it, and just to have an explanation of why we have this prejudice,” Ferrarini said.
Camp hopes that by the end of this course students will use the scientific awareness on bias to instigate a social change.
“This is a class all students should take because bias is something that affects all of us and having an understanding of the processes that contribute to it is very important in figuring it out how to fix it,” Camp said.
Contact Riya Chopra at riya.chopra202 ‘at’ gmail.com