Friday Reading List. 30/12/22

Four subtitles this entry:

1)Miscellaneous Social Phenomena and The Possible Relations-to or Implications-for EDI (Today: Psychopathy and it’s Implications for Empathy-Building Diversity Training and ‘Belonging’.)

2) Diversity

3) Diversity Statements

4) Diversity Training.

MISCELLANEOUS SOCIAL PHENOMENA AND THEIR POSSIBLE RELATIONS-TO OR IMPLICATIONS-FOR EDI

Psychopathy

Psychopathy is one of numerous interesting things that have crossed my screen. I have no expertise in the subject. However, I am curious about the implications of, let’s say a low or no capacity for empathy, for some of the empathy-dependant initiatives and goals of EDI-related programs. Specifically, for the diversity training exercise of perspective-taking or “mentally walking in someone else’s shoes.”[f, g] And also for the goal or requirement of inclusion initiatives, i.e. that employees (researchers, professors, administration, students) feel a sense of belonging in their respective groups.[e, h] Note and note well that I make no value-judgment about people who have a low or no capacity for empathy. 

These are just some questions and ideas I find interesting about this topic:

1) Consider perspective-taking approaches to diversity training. Is it possible for an empathetic person to take the perspective of a person who has low or no empathy? And to then empathise with that person? How?

If it’s true, cf Willem Martens, that some psychopaths experience “emotional suffering and loneliness,”[b] then perhaps a psychopath’s perspective-sharing-partner – the person he’s paired with at a diversity workshop to be open with each other – will empathise with him if he tells her of his pain and loneliness, whether true or fabricated. And what about the other way around? Will a psychopath empathise with his perspective-sharing partner? [g] According to James Fallon, prosocial psychopath, “[Psychopaths] have no emotional empathy.” [d] He explains that they can, however, have a very high level of cognitive empathy and “understand people feel pain; but they use that information to use that other person.” [d] With this bit of information about emotional and cognitive empathy, keep in mind that the non-psychopath and psychopath might end up dating after the diversity workshop. 

2) Now consider the goal or requirement of inclusion initiatives that employees (researchers, professors, administration, students) feel a sense of belonging in their respective groups. 

The Sense of Belonging page at Cornell states that, “Belonging is the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group. It is when an individual can bring their authentic self to work.”[e] And for its part the York Strategic Plan states, “York University will work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable community where everyone feels a sense of belonging and that they are respected. (p18)”[h]York adds, “Inclusivity means that people feel a sense of belonging within supportive structures and social spaces.”[h]

If psychopaths don’t feel a sense of belonging because they can’t feel a sense of belonging, then perhaps an inclusive environment isn’t one that requires that “everyone feels a sense of belonging. [bolding mine]”[h] The EDI-people (EDI designers, organisers, promoters, presenters, supporters) might then amend their criteria of belonging to “all people who can feel a sense of belonging do feel a sense of belonging.” 

One might be curious as to how many people who can feel a sense of belonging are required for a university to achieve this inclusive goal. If we take the findings of Sanz-Garcia et al’s 2021 meta study about the prevalence of psychopathy as true,[c] then 8.1% of the 7,989 university students enrolled at the University of Lethbridge in Fall 2022 meet the criteria for psychopathy (the findings of the meta study indicate that psychopathic traits are significantly higher in the student population than the general population). That amounts to 647 students! Of these 647, perhaps some feel they belong and some don’t, depending on each student’s degree of psychopathy. But if each reveals his psychopathy to you, presuming your non-psychopathy, would you believe his report of this feeling? 

Martens claims that some psychopaths do feel a sense of not-belonging which culminates in emotional pain, “As with anyone else, psychopaths have a deep wish to be loved and cared for.”[b] So, if some psychopaths can feel a sense of not-belonging, these same people might also be able to feel a sense of belonging. In fact, there might be a social justice imperative to ensure the psychopath feels a sense of belonging. How so? Because, as Martens notes, “Social isolation, loneliness, and associated emotional pain in psychopaths may precede violent criminal acts.”[b] But this endeavour at inclusion is fraught. 

As Martens notes, “[a psychopath’s desire to be loved and cared for] remains frequently unfulfilled, however, because it is obviously not easy for another person to get close to someone with such repellent personality characteristics.”[b] These repellent characteristics which include “impulsivity, recklessness/irresponsibility, hostility, and aggressiveness,”[b] are certainly part of diversity in the broad sense. That is, it’s just trivially true that each of us is made up of unique characteristics. But will an empathy-building exercise in an EDI workshop mitigate these repellent characteristics or soften others’ attitudes toward them? Martens notes that treating psychopathy is very difficult and only possibly successful. Treatment may include “psychotherapy, psychopharmacotherapy, and/or neurofeedback” as well as at least five years of psychotherapy. [b] So, I wouldn’t be too optimistic about the ability of a perspective-sharing workshop to help a psychopath. In fact, it might be that these workshops make things worse for the psychopath. And others.

At Cornell, “Belonging … is when an individual can bring their authentic self to work.”[e] Authenticity is a common theme in inclusion and belonging rhetoric. In one sense, a psychopath’s ability to dissimulate just is being his authentic self. But in another, this dissimulation might increase some psychopaths’ loneliness and isolation. As Martens explains, “Despite their outward arrogance, psychopaths feel inferior to others and know they are stigmatized by their own behavior. Some psychopaths are superficially adapted to their environment and are even popular, but they feel they must carefully hide their true nature because it will not be acceptable to others. This leaves psychopaths with a difficult choice: adapt and participate in an empty, unreal life, or do not adapt and live a lonely life isolated from the social community. They see the love and friendship others share and feel dejected knowing they will never be part of it.”[b

Many universities are making diversity-training mandatory. So some psychopaths who “adapt by carefully hiding their true nature” will thus be forced to participate in activities that may serve to amplify their “emotional suffering and loneliness.”[b] What could go wrong?!

Then again some psychopaths don’t care. In the You Tube video (at 11:15), The Moth: Confessions of a Pro-social Psychopath, James Fallon, successful neuroscientist and self-proclaimed pro-social psychopath, says he surveyed people who know him well — his professional colleagues, friends, and family, including his wife — to ask what they really thought of him. Fallon says everyone one of them told him, “we’ve always known you’re kind of a sociopath… you don’t connect to people, you’re kind of cold, and you’re superficially glib.”[a] And they told him that although he’s great at parties, and with strangers, and all that general stuff, “in terms of being the person really close to you … it ain’t such a fun ride.”[a] Fallon’s emotional response to this consensus of how his nearest and dearest feel about him? None. “That’s interesting … but I truly, really don’t care.” [a]

Fallon is very public about his psychopathy. It’s a boon to his research and career. He’s embedded in a professional community. And he has a family replete with kids and grandkids. So some psychopaths can out themselves as such and still have belonging, belonging they might have experienced for a lifetime. But do they feel a sense of belonging (emotional), or do they simply report that they belong if asked (cognitive)?[d] And does it matter for inclusion whether ALL people feel a sense of belonging? And to whom does it matter? 

So now the goal or requirement of inclusion initiatives might be amended such that “all people willing to say they belong say so whether they feel a sense of belonging or not.” 

As noted, I’ve no expertise in psychopathy. But neither have the vast majority of the designers, organisers, promoters, presenters, supporters of EDI-related policies, programs, propaganda, and workshops. Nor do the participants, whether mandated or volunteer, who attend their training and workshops. Nor do the vast majority of these folks have any expertise in implicit bias and other things that make people tick. What could go wrong?! 

Psychopathy articles

[a] Fallon, James. “Confessions of a Prosocial Psychopath,” The Moth, Recorded on June 4, 2011, Aired Dec 17, 2013, https://themoth.org/stories/confessions-of-a-pro-social-psychopath. Accessed December 30, 2022.

  • James H Fallon is a Professor, Human Psychiatry & Behaviour, School of Medicine, and Professor Emeritus, Anatomy & Neurobiology, School of Medicine, University of Illinois, Colorado. He is also a “prosocial”, or, non-violent or successful, psychopath.
  • This entry includes the You Tub video,

[b] Martens, Willem H.J. “The Hidden Suffering of the Psychopath,” Psychiatric Times, Vol 31, No 10, Volume 31, Issue 10, Oct 7, 2014, https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/hidden-suffering-psychopath. Accessed December 28, 2022.

  • Dr Martens is Chair of the W. Kahn Institute of Theoretical Psychiatry and Neuroscience. He is also Psychiatry Advisor of the European Commission (Leonardo da Vinci) and a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
  • Excerpt: “Sources of Sadness Despite their outward arrogance, psychopaths feel inferior to others and know they are stigmatized by their own behavior. Some psychopaths are superficially adapted to their environment and are even popular, but they feel they must carefully hide their true nature because it will not be acceptable to others. This leaves psychopaths with a difficult choice: adapt and participate in an empty, unreal life, or do not adapt and live a lonely life isolated from the social community. They see the love and friendship others share and feel dejected knowing they will never be part of it.”

[c] Sanz-García A, Gesteira C, Sanz J, García-Vera MP. Prevalence of Psychopathy in the General Adult Population: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Psychol. 2021 Aug 5;12:661044. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.661044. PMID: 34421717; PMCID: PMC8374040. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8374040/. Accessed December 29, 2022.

  • Excerpt from Discussion: “Another interesting result of this work has to do with the finding of differences in the prevalence of psychopathy between different groups of adults in the general population. In particular, this review has found that the prevalence of psychopathy is significantly higher among workers in some organizations and companies (managers, executives, procurement and supply professionals, advertising workers) than among university students or among people from the general community (12.9 vs. 8.1% and 1.9%, respectively). In turn, the prevalence among university students is significantly higher than among people from the general community (8.1 vs. 1.9%).”

[d] Suttie, Jill. “Can a Psychopath Learn to Feel Your Pain?,” Greater Good Magazine: Mind & Body, February 14, 2014, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_a_psychopath_learn_feel_pain. Accessed December 29, 2022.

  • Jill Suttie interviews James Fallon, a neuroscientist and “prosocial” psychopath who claims to have discovered his own psychopathy in the course of his research (while examining fMRIs, of which his own brain was a control subject). Fallon authored a book (2013) I’ve yet to read entitled, The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain. And you’ll find some interesting videos of talks given by Fallon, such the one at The Moth, here.
  • Excerpt: James Fallon (JF): “A psychopath can have a very high form of cognitive empathy, too. In fact, they are very good at reading other people. They seem like they can read minds sometimes. But even though they can understand people’s emotions, it doesn’t register emotionally with them—they have no emotional empathy. They understand people feel pain; but they use that information to use that other person. If they’re also a criminal, it makes them that much more dangerous, because they can read you and then use you better.”

Examples: EDI strategies and goals: perspective-taking, inclusion, belonging

[e] Belonging at Cornell. “Sense of Belonging,” Diversity and Inclusion, Cornell University, https://diversity.cornell.edu/belonging/sense-belonging. Accessed December 29, 2022.

  • Excerpt: “Belonging is the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group. It is when an individual can bring their authentic self to work. When employees feel like they don’t belong at work, their performance and their personal lives suffer. Creating genuine feelings of belonging for all is a critical factor in improving engagement and performance. It also helps support business goals.”

[f] Lindsey, Alex, Eden King, Ashely Membere, and Ho Kwan Cheung. “Two Types of Diversity Training That Really Work,” Human Resource Management, Harvard Business Review, July 28, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/07/two-types-of-diversity-training-that-really-work. Accessed December 29, 2022.

  • Excerpt: “One training exercise that we analyzed, and that shows promise, is perspective-taking, which is essentially the process of mentally walking in someone else’s shoes.”

[g] Robins, Alison. “5 diversity and inclusion activities for the workplace,” Resources, Officevibe, Blog, Aug 6, 2020, Updated May 18, 2022, https://officevibe.com/blog/diversity-and-inclusion-activities. Accessed December 30, 2022.

  • “4. Walk in someone else’s shoes 2. Pair each team member with a background that is different from their own.”

[h] The President’s Advisory Council on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2022-2027,” York University: Division of Equity, People and Culture, https://www.yorku.ca/vpepc/wp-content/uploads/sites/310/2022/03/21-212_EDI-Strategy-2022-27_EN_r2.pdf . Accessed December 29, 2022.

  • York University has three campuses located in Toronto, Ontario: Glendon, Keele, and Markham.
  • Excerpts, “belonging.” All bolding is mine:

“We aim to create an inclusive and equitable environment for all where theYork community experiences a strong sense of belonging, connection and well-being.” (p.4) “Thus, inclusivity means that people feel a sense of belonging “(p. 5)

Inclusion refers to enabling all individuals on our campuses to fully enjoy the opportunities the university has to offer, and ensure people feel a sense of belonging.” (p. 8)

Intersectionality refers to the interconnection of various categories of social diversity (race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, nationality, religion, language, age, etc. [“etc.” includes psychopathy? … – P.L.) and acknowledges that they do not exist in isolation of each other and can have a cumulative impact... Intersectionality focuses on how multiple, interwoven vectors shape social belonging, .” (p.8)

York University will work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable community where everyone feels a sense of belonging and that they are respected. .” (p. 18) “Environment is not limited to the physical (built) environment, though that contributes significantly to a sense of place and belonging.” (p. 18)

York University is proud of its commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and its long-standing historical commitment to social justice. We envision that this Strategy continues to advance EDI and contributes to: Community members including staff, students, faculty and instructors feeling a greater sense of safety, and belonging.” (conclusion, p.21)


DIVERSITY

Jussim, Lee. “Diversity is diverse: Social justice reparations and science,” Select Publications & Papers, Subheading: Scientific Integrity, Including Political Discrimination in Academia and How Politics Distorts Science and Perceptions of Science, Rutgers University, https://sites.rutgers.edu/lee-jussim/selectpublications/. Accessed December 27, 2022.

  • Lee Jussim is a “social psychologist and Distinguished Professor at Rutgers New Brunswick’s Psychology Department.
  • Abstract: Because the term “diversity” has two related but different meanings, what authors mean when they use the term is inherently unclear. In its broad form, it refers to vast variety. In its narrow form, it refers to human demographic categories deemed deserving of special attention by social justice-oriented activists. In this article, I review Hommel’s critique of Roberts et al (2020), which, I suggest, essentially constitutes two claims: 1. that Roberts et al’s (2020) call for diversity in psychological science focuses exclusively on the latter narrow form of diversity and ignores the scientific importance of diversity in the broader sense; and 2. Ignoring diversity in the broader sense is scientifically unjustified. Although Hommel’s critique is mostly justified, this is not because Roberts et al (2020) are wrong to call for greater social justice-oriented demographic diversity in psychology, but because Hommel’s call for the broader form of diversity subsumes that of Roberts’ et al (2020) and has other aspects critical to creating a valid, generalizable, rigorous and inclusive psychological science. In doing so, I also highlight omissions, limitations, and potential downsides to the narrow manner in which psychology and the broader academy are currently implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

DIVERSITY STATEMENTS

Bell, Norda. “An Exploratory Study of Diversity Statements in Canadian Academic Librarian Job Advertisements.” The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, vol. 5, no. 3, 2021, pp. 152–73. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/48644450. Accessed 27 Dec. 2022.

  • Norda Bell is an Associate Librarian at York University.
  • This paper is Open Access and available for download as a PDF here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/48644450?seq=18#metadata_info_tab_contents
  • The International Journal of Information, Diversity & Inclusion is published by the Information and Computer Science Dept (Library & Information Science Program), University of Hawai’i. Scholars Portal, Journals, https://journals.scholarsportal.info/browse/25743430. Accessed December 26, 2022.
  • Since this paper is Open Access (as are all publications in the IJIDI), I will upload a copy which you’ll find at the end of this post.
  • I’ve made note of several statements therein which, because they reference other EDI-related papers or are common EDI themes, warrant further analysis:
    • Bell (153): “Although many organizations strive to build an inclusive work environment, a truly inclusive organization develops over time, with effort and intentionality. ” Bell notes a ‘truly inclusive’ organization “is one where “employees are respected” and “[employees] feel a sense of belonging. (153)”
    • A cursory analysis of these statements include: i) Is ‘truly inclusive’ meant to be one word or two? Compare with ‘lived experience’ versus ‘experience’. ii) In which sense is ‘respect’ being used, and how are ‘respect’ and a ‘feeling of a sense of belonging’ measured? How reliable are these metrics? iii) “Respected” requires an indexical; i.e. respected by whom? And for what? iv) One’s felt sense of belonging doesn’t necessarily follow from her being respected. One might feel camaraderie with her co-workers because none of them feel respected by their boss. And I might believe my colleagues respect me, but nonetheless feel like an outsider. This feeling might be irremediable; e.g. chronic depression. If some people will never feel a sense of belonging, no matter the effort made, is a ‘truly inclusive’ organization a myth, liable to die the death of a thousand qualifications? v) A prosocial psychopath (not criminal or cruel) probably doesn’t care whether he is respected by colleagues and neither does he care that he doesn’t feel a sense of belonging. Does it matter for identifying (and who is the identifier?) a ‘truly inclusive’ organization whether he merely reports feeling respected and that he belongs, or do his mental states have to correspond with these criteria? How would one tell?
    • Bell notes the ALA (2017) definition of inclusion is “an environment in which all individuals … are valued for their distinctive skills, experiences, and perspectives (153).” And she notes that a stage toward becoming a ‘truly inclusive’ organization requires “an environment in which employees feel valued and accepted for their differences. (153)” And on p. 154, “Research suggests that organizations with strong diversity statements may deter racially intolerant individuals from applying to jobs as well as influence ethnic minorities application decisions.”Analysis: i) Which research? And how could these researchers possibly know who these racially intolerant people are and why they didn’t apply (e.g. might have nothing to do with their intolerance)? ii)With all three of these statements taken together, consider this: Some racially intolerant individuals will apply for a job notwithstanding the diversity statement in the ad, and some of these candidates will be hired. How then will an organisational team make this employee feel valued for his racial perspectives? Does it make any difference whether the racially intolerant employee is a member of a visible minority group and has animosity toward another designated group?
    • Re: An EEO is an Equal Employment Opportunity. Refer to Bells’ statement, “The study found that women rated organizations with extensive EEO statements more favorably, while men rated organizations with minimal EEO statements more favorable (Bell, 157).” Compare this statement with an entry from my Friday Reading List 23/12/2022: Cory Clark and Bo Winegard, “Sex and the Academy,” Quillette, October 8, 2022, https://quillette.com/2022/10/08/sex-and-the-academy/, accessed December 23, 2022.

Ferguson, Christopher. “Do Diversity Statements Help Diversity?” Checkpoints, Psychology Today, Oct 13, 2021, https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/checkpoints/202110/do-diversity-statements-help-diversity. Accessed December 26, 2023.

  • Christopher Ferguson is a Professor of Psychology at Stetson University.
  • Ferguson lists the three key points of his article thus: 1) Requiring diversity statements for faculty applicants is becoming more common; 2) At present, little evidence suggests diversity statements work to promote diversity, student success, or harmony among diverse groups; 3) Diversity statements may mainly serve to promote ideological homogeneity within universities.
  • You can view Dr Ferguson’s homepage here: https://www.christopherjferguson.com . He also has a Twitter account: https://twitter.com/CJFerguson1111

Haidt, Jonathan. “The Two Fiduciary Duties of Professors,” Heterodox:The Blog, Heterodox Academy, September 20, 2022, https://heterodoxacademy.org/blog/the-two-fiduciary-duties-of-professors/. Accessed December 26, 2022.

  • Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at Stern School of Business, New York University (NYU).
  • Subtitle: “Why the concept of fiduciary duty is useful in the academy, and how mandatory antiracism statements cause professors to violate their fiduciary duties.
  • According to Haidt, the two fiduciary duties of professors are to their student’s education as teachers and to the truth as scholars. Haidt allows that this concept doesn’t fit perfectly in academia (e.g. art is not so concerned with ‘truth’), and so speaks of quasi-fiduciary duties as a more apt concept.
  • Haidt explains in detail why and how the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s (SPSP) requirement for a statement from conference presenters to say how their work advances anti-racism violates professors’ quasi-fiduciary duties. And he speaks very clearly about why he cannot and will not remain loyal to an organisation that does so.
  • Haidt withdrew from presenting at the SPSP conference slated for February 2023. And he will resign from the organisation entirely at the end of 2022 (in a few days!) if the mandatory anti-racism statement requirement for conferences stays in place.

Mahdavi, Pardis and Scott Brooks. “Diversity statements: what to avoid and what to include,” Campus, Times Higher Education, March 17, 2021, https://www.timeshighereducation.com/campus/diversity-statements-what-avoid-and-what-include . Accessed December 25, 2022. 

  • Pardis Mahdavi is now Provost and Executive Vice President at the University of Montana, USA. Scott Brooks is “is Director of the Global Sport Institute at [Arizona State University] ASU, and associate professor of Sociology with the School of Social and Family Dynamics.”
  • Mahdavi and Brooks note that “universities across the US are now considering making diversity statements required for all faculty.” And, the authors note that some universities not only ask faculty members to post their respective diversity statements online, but also some universities offer “incentives such as merit raises for them to do so.”
  • Mahdavi and Brooks then list three “red flags” for what not to include in a diversity statement, and “four elements found in strong diversity statements.”
  • A point of interest here, and perhaps a red flag to some readers of this article, is that the diversity statements faculty members post online “become an integral part of performance reviews and promotion.”

Moniz, Carmo and Tori Morales. “Stern professor resigns from professional org. after refusing to write diversity statement,” Washington Square News, NYU’s Independent Student Newspaper, Oct 4, 2022, hyperlink here. Accessed December 26, 2023.

  • Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at Stern School of Business, New York University (NYU). When the organisers of a conference for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) required presenters to submit a statement on equity, inclusion and anti-racism, Haidt refused to do so and instead resigned from the conference.

DIVERSITY TRAINING

CBC News. “Carleton University student hopes to include anti-bias training in all fields of study,” CBC News, Ottawa, November 22, 2020, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/carleton-university-diversity-training-1.5801201. Accessed December 27, 2022.

  • “In June [2020, Carleton University student Khadija] El Hilali started an online petition calling for a mandatory anti-racism course for all degrees at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.” At the time of publication, the petition had “nearly 16,000 signatures.”

Khadija El Hilali. “Ottawa Universities: anti-racism course as a degree requirement,” Petition, change.org, https://www.change.org/p/mandatory-anti-racism-course. Accessed December 27, 2022.

  • El Hilali started the petition to implement “a mandatory anti-racism course for all degrees at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.“[Bibliographer’s note. See my entry on psychopathy at the beginning of this post – P.L.]
  • Be sure to peruse the “reasons for signing” under “comments.”

For citation, see Bell, Norda. Subheading: Diversity Statements. The following paper is Open Access.

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