Script: The Basics of Psychology for Christian Ministry
Homework Assignments

2.2 Biases and Prejudices

The problem with heuristics is that they can give us a false sense of certainty. They also contain implicit, emotion-driven judgments that play silently in the background of our conscious reasoning processes. African-American therapist Resmaa Menakem in his 2017 book on racial trauma shares a personal anecdote to illustrate this: While waiting for him at the exit inside a large supermarket, Menakem’s wife happens to watch a sales clerk doing random checks of customer’s receipts as they push their carts out the door towards the parking lot. This is a standard practice at the store to make sure that merchandise leaving the store is actually paid for. She begins to notice that the salesclerk, a young white woman, only stops customers of color, letting all white customers pass unchecked. With a racially mixed crowd of dozens of customers exiting over the 10-minute period she is waiting, there is not a single exception. Frustrated and upset, she and her husband decide to make a complaint to the store manager who immediately calls the salesclerk to his office. When confronted about this observation, the salesclerk is clearly embarrassed. She assures them that she had no intention to discriminate against anybody. 

Just like the concept of heuristics, the idea of resulting cognitive errors emerged from the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in the early 1970s. Their research, which led to Kahneman being awarded the Nobel Prize in economics, first demonstrated how human reasoning and decisions are often not rational and logical. Since then, many different cognitive biases have been described by various researchers. In an article published in 1997 Hershey Friedman provides a well readable comprehensive summary which is available online at occurring cognitive biases: