Addressing Entrenched Beliefs: Recap.

In our January Diversity Journal Club, we discussed addressing entrenched beliefs.

While the article discussed talked about the how misconceptions are embraced, spread, and held onto, there have been a few other useful stories out there to look at. One is here:

Biochem Belle shared this post by Hilda Bastian that is also relevant:

Another is this interview with George Lakoff, about making sure any counter-messaging isn’t reinforcing misinformation, the “don’t think of an elephant” principle. It’s about creating a new frame, one that reinforces a narrative of inclusion, science, protections, and public goods.

Another is Will Storr’s book The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science, recently discussed by the 538 science writer’s team on the Sparks podcast. One thing that gets brought up is that misconceptions can be cultural and help people, as they show with the concept of someone in Pakistan being infected with a Djinn..what we in the west would call mental illness. But Djinn framing helps people take care of those afflicted and people are taken care of. It’s worth a listen and describes just how complicated it can be to figure out when it is and isn’t worth attempting to correct misperceptions.

As Doctor PMS points out, there is a difference between uninformed and misinformed. For the former, people are much more likely to be open to new information if they are curious to learn/listen. As a general rule, adopting the curiosity mindset and being humble and honest about what we do and don’t know can help us overcome misinformation. While these require self-reflection and sparking that curiosity may be challenging, the distinction remains critical.

In terms of unwinding misconceptions, either for the mis- or uninformed, Ruthie Birger pointed out that that re-framing things so they are relevant to people’s lives can help people to understand new things, such as expanding on the use of safe spaces, although this comes with a downside:

In addressing entrenched beliefs, it’s also important to remember that even those misinformed often feel they are doing the right thing for the right reasons, something that Will Storr gets at in his book as well. The misinformed are most often good, likeable people:

Finding a way to make things personal and relevant to their lives is also crucial – or as Lakoff might say, use a frame that resonates (i.e. here’s how this affects you and your family, how it affected mine, etc). Humans work through stories. And realize, that especially online, the goal isn’t always to persuade. Allowing everyone see and understand your story also matters.

Despite the challenge, there is hope in addressing entrenched beliefs and misperceptions. Sparking curiosity may be one way (however you do that). In addition, recent research has shown that telling an opponent a story, a lived experience, can change minds. One thing to keep in mind is that once people are moved, the change is often for the longer term. After all, our brains change over time, and there is no going back. The world we live in always has new wrinkles to it as well as echoes of history that remain familiar.

We also need to be aware of our own biases, as Echo Rivera points out. Science works because it can falsify testable hypotheses through observations. We must consistently be recognizing what we don’t know, and the point in which we need to seek out other credible sources, think more, and be humble. Knowledge is power – and sometimes it is someone else who has that knowledge.

Finally, even thought people generally do have good intentions, it is also important to realize some lines can’t be crossed. If a belief is actively harming someone, or is a belief being brought into a context of science when it isn’t science – these need to be addressed, not accepted as opinion.

Thanks to all who contributed and joined our discussion, which can also be seen on storify, thanks to Doctor PMS!

See you next month for our February discussion under #DiversityJC. Share any thoughts in comments or on Twitter under the hashtag, or ping out Twitter account, @Diversity_JC.

Ian (@IHStreet)

Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

Doctor_PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

Addressing Entrenched Beliefs.


Lisa attempts to Teach Homer about misinformation and logical fallacies and inadvertently spreads misinformation about tiger-prevention rocks. Via Frinkiac. From The Simpsons S7E23 “Much Apu About Nothing”, Fox Studios.

Diversity JC has a Twitter handle: @Diversity_JC. The three of us will tweet relevant things and one of us will moderate discussions from the account. We also have out newsletter that you can subscribe to. 

**NOTE:** Our first discussion of 2017 has been moved to Thursday January 19 at 2pm Eastern Time due to the inauguration and the potential for people to be traveling to protests on the 21st. We’ll discuss this paper, The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions (pdf).

There’s been a lot written and said this past few months about reconciling the “post-truth” world with the one many of us in science believe we live in: the one of data, facts, and science.

  • Where confirmation bias is minimized and not everything is evidence of conspiracy.
  • Where our own beliefs are self-interrogated and, at the same time, aren’t held so tightly that any contradictory evidence, real or imagined, continues rationalizing of  misconceptions, instead of new dialogue.
  • Where vetted sources are trusted by many – instead of groups that decide to listen or not based on vague principles instead of facts, and anything perceived as a challenge to one’s identity or even requires change is met with resistance or outright denial.

Inclusiveness in academia is not immune to this trend: There are those that simply deny there’s a problem or see it as a challenge to their identity in some way.

Our Diversity Journal Club aims to not only discuss issues of diversity and inclusion in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, but to make a difference. We also hope to provide a way to engage for those that haven’t discussed these topics in the past, and want to learn and listen. There is evidence that an open conversation telling people directly about lived experiences works to combat misperceptions. Yet we need people to come to the table first – to admit the need for discussion and change.

As Brianna Wu points out in this Twitter thread (& many others have as well), facts do not really matter when trying to convince people:

Even Galileo in letters to The Duchess of Tuscany was aware of entrenched beliefs that are hard to get through, even if the facts are on your side:

These men have resolved to fabricate a shield for their fallacies out of the mantle of pretended religion and the authority of the Bible. These they apply with little judgement to the refutation of arguments that they do not understand and have not even listened to.

Galileo used a telescope to observe “new worlds” (moons) around Jupiter. 500 years later, NASA/JPL scientists have further confirmed that observation in unprecedented detail with the Juno mission’s time lapse as it approached and entered orbit around Jupiter. Some scientists argue that exploring nature in greater and greater detail reveals the magnificence of creation, putting a religious narrative structure on why they love science and exploration. The religious story as a way to relate science may not be given by scientists, however, as Dudo and Besley found that scientists in their survey put the lowest priority (& thought their colleagues did too) on tailoring narratives (Dudo and Besley, 2016, open access).

This month in #DiversityJC we’ll discuss this publication by DJ Flynn, Brendan Nyhan, and Jason Reifler “The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions: Understanding False and Unsupported Beliefs about Politics” (pdf).

The paper concludes:

If the conclusions reached so far are correct, however, the threat of misperceptions to democracy cannot be avoided, especially in the highly polarized world of contemporary American politics. Facts are always at least potentially vulnerable to directional motivated reasoning, especially when they are politicized by elites. The polarization that our politics must confront is thus not just over issues and public policy, but over reality itself.

The paper delves into political misperceptions, however, similar principles apply to issues of inclusion and diversity issues in STEM (and beyond). There are entrenched beliefs that increasing inclusion means losing something for those currently in positions of power and influence. To name one misperception.

It is long article, but  the most relevant sections in order of appearance are The introduction, The definition of misperceptions, The effects of misperceptions and corrective information, and Why misperceptions matter for democracy, and the conclusion.

Deficit models don’t work. People come to new information with prior knowledge that can be persistent, and messages not tailored to specific audiences can easily fall flat, as Southern Fried Science recently addressed regarding climate change. The communicator and the message can both matter when correcting misinformation. Some evidence suggests starting with the misperception and filling it with the correct information can be effective (though it takes effort on the part of the person absorbing new information). However, delivering it in a narrative/story form is likely to be most effective. It shouldn’t be shocking that learning is a social process and what matters is what goes on inside the head of the learner.

There also has to be a way for a story to resonate with an intended audience. Identifying that may be especially challenging, as Flynn et al. point out.

The questions we’ll be having in mind and stories we’d like to hear are:

  1. Have you had experienced actually changing someone’s mind on an issue of Diversity/inclusion? Or changed someone’s mind on another STEM topic (like climate change)?
  2. How do we best connect with those expressing strong disagreement? (& are there people that genuinely seem more open to hearing the other side of an argument than others?
  3. How important is it to continue ‘preaching to the choir’ and is there a value in doing so?
  4. What narratives work best with social/inclusion/diversity issues that can appear invisible? With a social issue like inclusion/diversity that may not be seen as solidly researched as say, established physics, are there narratives that work better or worse than others? What has been your experience?
  5. How do you stay open to new ideas/hearing another perspective?

Join us for DiversityJC on Friday, January 20 at 2pm ET! 

@Diversity_JC is:

Ian – @IHStreet

Emily – @DrEmilySKlein

Doctor_PMS – @Doctor_PMS
PS- One thing we should all start to be mindful of is not sharing fake news ourselves, especially be careful if it confirms what you already believe. Here is one list of ways to spot – and then not share- fake news stories (and find what the actual story might be and share that instead).

2016 #DiversityJC – Ian’s Year-End Review


It’s the end of 2016 and it’s been a year of change in all sorts of ways (for hopefully good, but also almost certainly for the worse in many ways too, especially on the diversity/inclusion front as at least the US became demonstrably less friendly following our 2017 election). 

In this post, Ian, Emily, and the good Doctor give our thoughts about this past year of DiversityJC and some ideas for the future. Emily’s post is here.

Remember you can subscribe to the DiversityJC Newsletter to keep up with all our discussions and posts.


One of our topics this year was ideological diversity and the discussion focused on how to incorporate different political ideologies into academia, a generally more liberal place outside of a few disciplines (Economics, for instance). It’s not always easy – for example, we can’t incorporate creationism since it isn’t a science (and even runs anti-science, as when it ignores evolution). There are also some social attitudes that shouldn’t be tolerated – racism and sexism for instance (these things are present enough already and have prevalent myths surrounding them).

Julia Shaw, a scientist studying memory wrote a post for Scientific American “I’m a scientists and I don’t believe in facts” writing

“Scientists slowly break down the illusions created by our biased human perception, revealing what the universe actually looks like. In an incremental progress, each study adds a tiny bit of insight to our understanding.

But while the magic of science should make our eyes twinkle with excitement, we can still argue that the findings from every scientific experiment ever conducted are wrong, almost by necessity. They are just a bit more right (hopefully) than preceding studies.

That’s the beauty of science. It’s inherently self-critical and self-correcting. The status quo is never good enough. Scientists want to know more, always. And, lucky for them, there is always more to know.”

That is exactly how science works (and it does work, just look around at your entire world and realize it’s the result of curiosity-based scientific inquiry).

The science of studying inclusion and diversity is similar. In this case, research shows us that science is still not an inclusive place, the Nobel prizes being one example of that.

Inclusiveness takes understanding and compassion. All of us need to at least try and understand where the bias, fear, and even possible outright hatred come from.

Science breaks down and expands our perspective. It can challenge tradition and authority. These aspects of science are needed now more than ever, given what is shaping up to be an anti-science, anti-inclusive, anti-compassion administration. There are steps to take in moving forward, both nationally, but especially locally, as we go about our lives.

I’ve been introspective and thought a lot about how to be inclusive as a cis white male this year, especially as I’ve been writing more and more. Thinking about how to talk about these issues, because these are tough topics to talk about, and thinking about them because white people generally don’t experience them.

It’s all the more important to continue to have these discussions and figure out how to bring people along, raise everyone up (whether that is economically or in terms of ensuring everyone is truly treated as a human being deserving of compassion, empathy, and support).

It isn’t always easy. Being in a hurry, feeling under pressure and under multiple stressors in our lives (the raw chase to keep up, make money to live, etc.) can easily blind us to social issues, to issues of fairness and inclusion – or to see beyond our own experiences. Part of this past election was a sizable portion of people feeling disenfranchised. They voted for change despite the hateful language and actions of the “change” candidate. I hope more of them speak up to say that the racism, sexism, and xenophobia Trump espouses and is now appointing in his cabinet picks does not represent them, is not what they believe or support, even if they agree with him on other issues (sadly, I haven’t seen a lot of that out there, because it was a package deal). It’s important to keep in mind that Trump didn’t get the most votes as well. 90 million people did not vote, and of those that did not vote for Trump but did pick a presidential candidate, 74,000,000 votes were counted (to Trump’s 62,000,000).

Going forward, be kind, act locally to support inclusion and repudiate bias (even implicit biases as well as ones we might harbour ourselves).

Ian (@IHStreet)

Image from Flickr by Leland Francisco,  CC2.0 : Kindness is like snow “Kindness is like snow – it beautifies everything it covers” (Quote possibly by Khalil Gibran).


Recap- Toxic Masculinity

We have to know one another and ourselves, even our shadows. Source. Photo by Nick Page. CC-BY 2.0.

We discussed toxic masculinity in our last discussion.

On the Infactorium blog this past week, Dr24hrs wrote a post called ‘Responsibilities of a third millenium man’. He addresses a lot of how the masculinity is changing and broadening. It’s also about broadening the definition of what is considered valuable. Right now, what are thought of as traditionally masculine values/characteristics remain valued and legitimized a lot more than others. It’s not quite a success if women can succeed, but only if they ‘act like men’.

In addition, there is also a documentary that explores masculinity:

It was pointed out at the end of our discussion that the term ‘toxic masculinity‘ might not be the best to convince men to change.

I’m somewhat sympathetic to that point– it’s important to avoid labeling people and assuming that is the end of the story. However, there is a real problem with how many men behave around and treat women. This is a world where when women win book prizes, sexist ideas about why come up in prominent publications. Donald Trump demeans women regularly (and yes, he may be an extreme case for the long-term and public nature it). It’s a world of Brock Turner and many other men getting off easily with criminal behavior. These are things that are toxic to wide parts of society, and largely result from the behavior of men that is toxic. It needs to be called out as such.

It’s also the case that toxic masculinity discourages inclusiveness:

The tropes do exist. I couldn’t help but think the (new-to-me term) misogynoir stereotype of the ‘strong black woman’ bears some similarities to what is stereotypical masculinity as well – though experienced very differently, obviously.

Emily’s thread at the end sums things up well and echoes The Infactorium post I linked above well (click through for the whole thing):

The fact is it’s still hard to discuss masculinity, especially among men. Broadening what is valued by men to be more inclusive is important too, and is also a challenging discussion to have. Yet it is worth studying, having the discussion, and even having a scholarly discipline dedicated to it. Almost everything else has an area of scholarship, it strikes me as a privileged position for masculinity not to be studied too. That doesn’t mean other areas that already exist like medicine and science need to double down to study men more since they have been the default study subjects forever and do need to focus more on other un-represented groups.

The toxicity of masculinity might come from outward behaviors, but it is also just toxic because the discussions can’t be had. They’re toxic. As the social work researcher Brene Brown has said, we’re a culture afraid of vulnerability and shame and that is in no small part because men have an outsize influence in our culture and see being vulnerable as weakness even though it isn’t.

Thanks to all who participated in #DiversityJC last month. And look forward to our next topic later this month.

Ian Street (@IHStreet)

Toxic Masculinity.

Masculinity can be more than one shade of gray. Credit: Josh Hallet, Flickr, CC2.0

This month in Diversity Journal Club (#DiversityJC on Friday, 16 September, 2pm ET), we’ll be discussion this New York Times Column about teaching men to be emotionally honest.

And take it from me (Ian). It is hard to be emotionally open with other men– with everyone, really. Even those we know well.

One example of toxic masculinity is that article about the “advice” on a website about approaching women wearing headphones (the actual answer: don’t).

Andrew Reiner poses this question and assignment to his class on masculinity:

But wouldn’t encouraging men to embrace the full range of their humanity benefit women? Why do we continue to limit the emotional lives of males when it serves no one? This question is the rhetorical blueprint I pose to students before they begin what I call the “Real Man” experiment.

In this assignment, students engage strangers to explore, firsthand, the socialized norms of masculinity and to determine whether these norms encourage a healthy, sustainable identity.

The models men have in the United States are stoic, strong, favor action over contemplation, and most importantly, show no vulnerability. They may or may not also be angry, a facade of strength.

The radio show Backstory aired an episode about The American Work Ethic over labor day weekend. This episode brings up something key to (US) masculinity: Hard work. Providing. And an idea that seems increasingly less true: that hard work will pay off and be rewarded. The recession in 2008 and the slow recovery, and economic insecurity that still exists for many has left men with few outlets to express their vulnerability– and anger and abuse can come out instead.

Brene Brown, a researcher on shame and vulnerability talks about how our culture- even women- often have a hard time hearing men being vulnerable and expressing emotion to their partners or loved ones. As she says, if a woman can sit with a man in true vulnerability, she’ll be showing you a woman that has done some real work (& yes, she has a reverse as well, where men really have to work at just listening to women and not trying to instantly fix everything).

Andrew Reiner notes that men commit suicide at 4 times the rate women do, are not as academically accomplished as women now, and as teenagers socially more unable to connect with others. That can also persist into adulthood.

Too many men are still walled off, isolated, and learn a form of masculinity where the only emotion acceptable is anger.

The Note to Self podcast had an episode with Lead parent, and Dad, Andrew Moravcsik, husband of Anna Marie Slaughter (who wrote the ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have it All’), about how we think about parenting, and integrating our work and home lives, having men being caretakers, a role still not traditional in the US. He points out how being lead ‘dad’, and how it has to be legitimized. He points out how some of the language and treatment of men as caretakers is akin to bias against women in the workplace (basically that there’s a perception that men can’t handle the school schedules, PTA meetings, etc- though they just haven’t been given opportunity to do so).

Similarly, men’s feelings, besides outrage, need to be able to come into the light and be legitimate (especially to other men).

If you want an example of what opening up, vulnerability, men talking about very real things with each other might look like, listen to this short Story Corps story: Guardians of The Gate where two Golden Gate Bridge workers talk about their job & pivot to talking about a really hard aspect of their job, encountering people intending to jump– it goes to my core and makes me cry every time I listen to it. These two have been colleagues and friends for 25 years.

So that’s what we’ll talk about this month in #DiversityJC on September 16 at 2pm ET.

How can we detoxify this form of masculinity Reiner writes about?

Who are men we might hold up as role models for men to emulate?

How do we legitimize and allow men to express themselves more often & to whom?

And what do you wish men knew about how their emotional distance and isolation translates to biases and abuse of women (& anyone else for that matter).

See you on the 16th.

Ian Street (@IHStreet)

Doctor_PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

Emily S Klein (@DrEmilySKlein)

Don’t take out your headphones.

Credit: Takumi Yoshida, Flickr, CC2.0

This week saw ‘The Modern Man’, a website apparently dedicated to giving (horrible) tips to men about meeting women out in the world.

The post that got a lot of attention on Twitter was one with tips to talk to a woman with earbuds or headphones firmly in place. You can read about one reaction from The Guardian here.

I don’t understand people- men in this case- that don’t take headphones as universal symbol of ‘don’t bother me’. Similar to people with nose-in-computer at the library of coffee shop. Presumably, most people aren’t like me and have times when they are more open to talking to strangers.

I get it. I’m a single guy. It’s not a ton of fun sometimes, but forcing conversation on someone that is sending a signal of ‘don’t interrupt’ with earbuds in does not endear you to that person.

If I get interrupted, it takes me a long time to refocus. And that is probably the least of it. Women get approached all the time, get catcalled, and otherwise get a lot of unwanted attention all the time. Just listen in on Twitter sometime, it gets talked about there a lot.

So what’s the alternative? Like many things in life, there aren’t shortcuts. Be someone worth getting to know. Pursue your interests. Meet people that share them. Things will grow from that. The more seeds you plant, the better.

Sleazily dehumanizing and treating women like objects is unacceptable.

Meeting people tends to happen spontaneously and organically. The Atlantic’s James Hamblin recently learned how to meet strangers in New York City, none of which involved interrupting people with earbuds. Hamblin’s a little forced, but then, he was doing a video on a deadline with a somewhat artificial set up. Meet-cutes, instant connections, etc. might happen, but the instant it’s forced, something has gone wrong (and clearly, Hamblin was not making any new best friends– and its’ impossible for me to tell whether he’s playing a character or is genuinely being himself).

If you’re not looking for long-term relationships/love to spring and just want to be part of a lots of short flings, there are communities dedicated to that. Look there, not everywhere. And not to people in earbuds or who are at work. If you want to know how ridiculous a workplace where everyone hooks up with everyone else is, there’s a podcast you should listen to.

Yes, the world is connection starved. It isn’t helped by a culture of masculinity that dictates that connecting is a bad thing. That showing vulnerability is not OK drives that disconnectedness. And so we get blog posts recommending men interrupt women that are obviously signaling they don’t want to be interrupted just then.

There are better times, places, and manners to connect. Learn those. Practice those. The world will be better for it.

In our topic post this month, DiversityJC will discuss models of masculinity and just how they don’t serve us well as the ‘headphones’ article illustrates. Look for that post next week.

Ian Street (@IHStreet).





Re-cap: Impostorism- or is it?

Our last live Twitter discussion was on whether- and when- the impostor syndrome is the cause of career setbacks, or the indirect outcome of bias, either explicit or implicit.

635799162532104738-236592369_208758e             Foto credit:

Emily started off with a definition of The Impostor Syndrome and that is is common. Impostor syndrome is a human feature:


One reason impostorism may be rampant in Academia is:

However the crux of our discussion was this:

Impostorism can be brought on by external bias, not an internally driven sense that one doesn’t measure up – which is a form of gaslighting (for more, check out Yashir Ali’s awesome post on gaslighting and women). Yet our original article was about the world of tech. Does this also happen in STEM more broadly?

Here’s one story:

This and other posts during our discussion demonstrated it does happen in STEM, and it is just as easy to attribute feelings to the impostor syndrome when it wasn’t. At all. As our original article discussed, outcomes of both can feel the same – i.e., that you don’t belong or can’t hack it in a field. Therefore, it can be difficult to differentiate between things people say and do that are external and about their bias, and your personal struggle with confidence.

Yes. At it’s most fundamental, impostorism based on gaslighting clearly impacts underrepresented minority (URM) groups – and shows us that bias masquerading as imposterism is external and true imposter syndrome is internal. This difference is critical for how we deal with both. Combating imposter syndrome is about personal growth, reflection, and confidence – and internally disrupting the story it tells us:

Melanie Nelson also shared her Chronicle Viate Article balancing confidence and competence and when to focus on each of these, with an eye towards how bias interferes with these:

Yet addressing bias that can act as imposterism is about external, communal work – about learning to recognize how bias manifests, calling it out, and working towards more inclusive communities.

It was clear how important it is to realize that something blamed on an individual may well be the product of a biased environment. We’re all affected by the context we are in, many times invisibly. So next time you feel like an impostor, take a minute to really examine where that feeling is coming from. And for those of use that aren’t saddled with biases against us, it’s important to strive for inclusivity and avoid inducing impostorism in a colleague, student, or mentee.


Links shared:

On Confidence:


Thanks for everybody that joined us, and see you next time!