Hosted by Dr. Shreya Sarkar-Barney

Discrimination: Why it Happens and What We Can Do About it

Dr. Susan Fiske

According to a Pew research study, about four-in-ten employed women (42%) say they have experienced some form of gender discrimination at work. In another study, 64% of black adults say blacks are treated less fairly than whites in the workplace. Given widespread perception of discrimination among minority groups, are we humans prone to discriminate? Perhaps there is an evolutionary tendency causing such discriminatory behavior. What is it that causes people to discriminate against others? Listen in for a conversation with eminent social psychologist, Dr. Susan Fiske.


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    About Our Episode on Discrimination 

    1. Given widespread perception of discrimination among minority groups, are we humans prone to discriminate? Why do human discriminate?

    2. Are some of us more biased or more prone to discriminate than others?

    3. How effective is diversity training in minimizing discrimination?

    4. Are there better mechanisms to overcome bias?

    5. Your area of research is fascinating and highly relevant for addressing many of today’s challenges? What got you interested in studying social cognition?

    6. When it comes to a general understanding of human behavior, many myths and misbeliefs prevail. Are there some patterns of relationships that are almost always universally true? Also, what are some common misbeliefs?

    7. Your research shows that humans make judgments about others in a split second. In particular, two characteristics dominate in forming our first impression, warmth, and competence. Does this natural tendency make us more or less biased? If I am meeting someone for the very first time and it’s for a job interview what can I do to make a favorable impression?

    8. As a manager, what can I do to minimize the harmful effects of envy and activate its motivating powers?

    9. Finally, advice for those who are working toward improving diversity and inclusion in their workplace.

    Worldwide, perception of discrimination have become widespread despite efforts to promote diversity. We asked Dr. Fiske if we humans are prone to discriminate against others. She describes how the motivational forces that helps us survive also cause us to be biased and prejudiced, making it harder to control. In the course of our discussion, Dr. Fiske shared approaches to reducing discrimination that are more effective than diversity training. Some of the more interesting aspects of social cognition relate to the formation of first impressions which tend to overshadow our judgements. Dr. Fiske’s pioneering research reveals the characteristics that influence the formation of these impressions. Additionally, she shares strategies for managers to avoid falling victim to biased thinking, resulting from the shortcuts the mind takes to make sense of this world. This podcast is sure to intrigue those looking to gain deeper insight about their own thinking and why they do what they do. For business leaders and HR professionals there are practical answers to diversity and inclusion that far superior to diversity training.

    Meet the Speaker From Our Podcast on Episode on Discrimination

    Dr. Susan Fiske

    Dr. Susan Fiske

    Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs
    Princeton University

    Dr. Susan T. Fiske is the Eugene Higgins Professor, Psychology and Public Affairs, at Princeton University. She is an eminent scholar and pioneer in the field of social cognition. Through the research conducted by Dr. Fiske and her colleagues, we now have a deeper understanding of how humans form stereotypes as well as the factors that contribute to bias and prejudice. In 2013, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and, in 2011, to the fellowship of the British Academy. Notably, she was the first social psychologist to testify on a gender discrimination case heard by the US Supreme Court. This set the precedence of using psychological research in the legal context. She has also won several scientific honors, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, the APA Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award, the APS William James Fellow Award, as well as the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations Wundt-James Award and numerous honorary degrees.


    Fiske, S. T. (2000). Stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination at the seam between the centuries: Evolution, culture, mind, and brain. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30(3), 299-322.

    Fiske, Susan T.; Glick, P. (2001). “An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications of gender inequality”. American Psychologist. 56 (2): 109–118.

    Fiske, Susan T.; Cuddy, Amy J.C.; Glick, Peter; Xu, Jun (June 2002). “A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 82 (6): 878–902.

    Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J., Glick, P., & Xu, J. (2018). A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition (2002). In Social Cognition (pp. 171-222). Routledge.

    Fiske, S. T. (2011). Envy up, scorn down: How status divides us. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

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