by UnHerd
Tuesday, 20
April 2021

Jesse Singal on fad psychology

Freddie Sayers spoke to the science journalist about his new book
by UnHerd

Jesse Singal is a far cry from the trans-hating monster that parts of the Internet portray him to be. In person, he is a softly-spoken, amiable Obama liberal whose politics, in a pre-social media world, might even be described as boring. But we do not live in such a world anymore, and since he published two trans-related articles for The Atlantic and New Yorker, the transphobic cloud has hung over Jesse for years. Though Jesse is frustrated by the persistent misrepresentations of his work (he says he’s fighting ‘ghost versions’ of his pieces), it has not deterred him from writing about topics that might land him in hot water with the hyper-liberal Left.

A key theme in all of Jesse’s work is challenging groupthink and tribalism, which is reflected in his new book, ‘The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills’. There’s a full-length review of the book by Sarah Ditum and a podcast interview with Jesse in UnHerd today, which you can listen to above. One of the fads he discusses in his book, implicit bias training, may stand out to readers for the way in which it has taken hold in the US (and much for the Western world) over the years. Politicians, employees and sports clubs subjected themselves to versions of the training, but the science behind it, Singal says, is dubious:

We have this concept of implicit bias where you can take a test and it’ll reveal how implicitly biassed you are or how unconsciously biased you are. The theory goes that if we could just fix individual levels of implicit bias, our race gaps would go away. And my critique of these ideas is that they obscure how deeply rooted and complicated these problems; for example, racial discrepancies and racism in America trace back centuries…The question of whether we can measure implicit bias accurately or do anything about it is where I’m sceptical. It’s part of this idea that there’s some psychological intervention to fix complicated problems like racism, and there’s effectively no evidence for that. We’ve probably spent billions of dollars on that false idea.
- Jesse Singal, UnHerd

Hopefully books like these will add a much-needed dose of realism to the public debate. We really enjoyed meeting Jesse and thanks to him for his time.

Join the discussion

  • OK, so you make this anti-implicit bias training mandatory from kindergarten to pension, and even after, by it being in every TV show and MSM output.

    Now in 2 more generations no one is Racist, or biased, But… still the races still stratify in trends in achievement, still the bell curve remains stubbornly, What Then?

    There is no leveling up, but there can be leveling down, is this what implicit bias means we must do?

  • “Hopefully books like these will add a much-needed dose of realism to the public debate. “

    Not a cat’s chance in hell.
    The ultimate irony is the very people who worry about everybody else’s bias, unconscious or otherwise, don’t have a mirror handy. Hell, if the hyper aware can’t see or confront their own prejudices, how an earth is the average joe supposed to ?

  • It’s true that there’s not much chance of the “average joe” becoming a paragon of rationality, and even the “hyper aware” will sometimes err, but let’s not be too pessimistic. There’s plenty of scope for substantial improvement.

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