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Here's the Work That Won a Stanford Prof the Genius Grant

Scott Lucas | September 17, 2014 | Story Politics

Jennifer Eberhardt, an associate professor of psychology at Stanford, was announced today as the only Bay Area winner among the annual John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awards, commonly known as the genius grants. She's part of a group that contains poets, activists, and cryptographers that each received a no-strings attached $625,00 prize. So what did Eberhardt win it for?

She kind of called you a racist. But that's okay—it's the first step towards overcoming racism. Let's explain.

Eberhardt's work focuses on the implicit biases that result when we think of race as natural, rather than socially-constructed, category, especially with regard to criminal justice. She's written papers on how black juvenile defendants are more likely to be viewed as adults than their white counterparts, on how social constructs direct vision toward otherwise unseen stimuli (and how that keeps the association betwen African-Americans and apes alive), and on the neurological basis of racial face recognition. In essence, she uses high tech laboratory techniques to measure the strength of implicit biases against African-Americans. (There's a really good set of videos about her work here.) It's a body of literature that has wide support with the mainstream of political psychology and studies of race.

More than academically, she also uses that work to with law enforcement agencies. She's consulted with the Palo Alto police department on racial profiling, and currently works with Oakland Police Department as it works to meet the court-imposed consent decree. Basically, she's amazing and does great work. We, on the other hand, are still struggling with getting our office coffee machine to work, which is why we did not win the genius grant.

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