“Reducing Racial Inequities in Health: Using What We Already Know to Take Action” Social Work Winkelman Lecture
David Williams; Professor of Public Health Professor of African and African American Studies Harvard University
March 19, 2019
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Institute for Social Research (426 Thompson Street) Room 1430
Sponsored by: Group Dynamics Seminar Series
Contact Information: Group Dynamics Seminar Series, firstname.lastname@example.org
Extensive research in psychology has shown that providing people with objective choices in a task can increase their motivation on the task. I propose that even in the same objective circumstances, people can perceive themselves and others as either merely engaging in a series of actions (a neutral action mindset) or making a series of choices (a choice mindset). Going beyond the benefits of actual choices for task-specific motivation, my research shows that activating the choice mindset can have a broad range of downstream consequences in diverse unrelated domains. When judging others, people in a choice mindset put responsibility on the individual rather than on contextual factors, thus becoming more susceptible to the fundamental attribution error and being more likely to blame the victim. People in a choice mindset put responsibility for societal problems, such as wealth inequality, primarily on individuals (e.g., “rich people make good choices, poor people made bad choices”) rather than on the context (e.g., such as regressive tax systems). People in a choice mindset think more analytically rather than holistically, focusing on the parts of a phenomenon rather than the whole. The choice mindset helps people cope with distressing events, helping them positively reappraise the situation through the lens of choice and thus experience lower negative emotions. A field experiment found that a chronic choice mindset can improve people’s everyday decision making: students’ time allocation decisions suffered as they approached the end of the semester, but a five week choice mindset intervention arrested this decline, helping students allocate their time in a more optimal manner.