cover image Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias

Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias

Pragya Agarwal. Bloomsbury Sigma, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4729-7135-7

In a well-researched and cogent work, behavioral scientist Agarwal reveals the many ways implicit or unconscious bias influences one’s decisions, worldview, and interactions with others. Elucidating recent neuroscience developments, she shows unconscious bias isn’t as cognitively hardwired as previously believed, and is shaped throughout a lifetime by society, upbringing, and environment. Having been learned, Agarwal writes, biases can be unlearned. She covers a variety of biases, including those based in gender, race, age, accent, and appearance, drawing on evolutionary theory and neurological and psychological studies to illustrate how these prejudices form and how they can be recognized and addressed. Agarwal highlights how pervasive bias is and how it impacts employment, health care, and interactions with police and the courts. She also examines implicit bias in technology, noting that programmers’ biases are reflected in software, in turn reinforcing bias in the real world. Though the bulk of the work is scientific, Agarwal also delves into relevant personal experiences, such as those of growing up in her native India’s patriarchal society, or of encountering racial stereotyping while working and raising children in England. Despite a generally scholarly tone, this relevant work accessibly reveals the insidious nature of stereotyping and does much to encourage readers to examine—and take responsibility for—their own implicit biases. (June)