Alief

Birds, no matter how tiny, horrify me when they fly into my office.  This has happened twice so far.  The first time, I was alone, so I took one of those martial arts sticks we keep around and directed the errant pigeon out.  The other day, it happened again – some sparrow decided to come in.  This time, I was not alone, so I shrieked sounded an alarm.  Jude came and gently talked the sparrow out, just as he does with other wild life around here – e.g. giant moths.  Because my condition is painful, I sought online advice and discovered I had ALIEF.

Here is the link to the video where Tamar Szabo Gendler – a very wise woman – talks about alief.  I had the pleasure of meeting her once.  “Alief” is a word she coined for the pre-rational reaction you have to certain experiences.  For example, you may be a staunch anti-racist by belief, and still have an alief that blacks are bad.  And if so, Tim Roth is gonna catch you.  

All is fine if your aliefs and beliefs coexist harmoniously, but that’s not always the case.  There are studies that show that a strenuous effort to suppress your alief negatively affects your cognitive performance.  I am a living proof – after the pigeon incident, the only way to recuperate from my effort at rationality was to go and purchase a purse.

I think aliefs definitely have an effect on education.  A student with an alief to women as inferior is less likely to engage if the teacher is a woman, even if his or her belief is that gender has nothing to do with the effectiveness of teaching.  Conversely, if a teacher aliefs that students are imbeciles, his or her belief to the contrary helps little.  None of us, of course, will ever admit to such aliefs.  Often we are not even aware of having them. 

My own alief to wild life  dates back to when my grandmother decided that it was time for me to ditch the pacifier.  I clearly remember her telling me one day that our pointer took it and gave it to her puppies.  I also knew she was lying and tried to cross-examine her but failed.  And ever since then, I’ve been working hard on reconciling this alief with my belief that dogs are man’s friends, and bears are wonderful.


5 thoughts on “Alief

  1. I’m not sure I like the word “alief” (not big on neologisms unless there’s a very good reason or, conversely, they’re completely frivolous) but she’s absolutely right that we’re all biased whether we admit it or not. Malcolm Gladwell presents the psych research on that very nicely in Blink…but I think it’s OK not to like wildlife — that’s a relatively mild form of the condition!

    1. She actually talks about the choice of the word as provisional term. Here is a link to her website (I linked the whole website, not just the alief paper, because I find her remarkable altogether).

      1. Her work looks very interesting indeed, and I’m all for people promoting an understanding of unconscious bias. Thanks for the link — this actually plays into what I’m writing about today.

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