Stephen M. Ryan


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Intercultural Communication in Language Education Reconceptualising Prejudice more

Sun, Jul 10, 10:35-11:00 Asia/Tokyo

Prejudice. Ethnocentrism. Bias. We often present them to our students as glitches in the system, “evil intrusions” into an otherwise well-functioning cognitive process, bugs which well-meaning people should eradicate from their thinking. In fact, far from being glitches, these short-cuts in thinking are the system: human cognition would be impossible without them (Nortje, 2022). There are four limitations on human perception that make biases not only inevitable but integral features of our interaction with the world (Benson, 2016; Manoogian, 2021): lack of bandwidth in the brain to deal with the amount of sensory information available; tight restrictions on memory storage; a biological imperative to make sense of the world despite having partial experience of it; and a need to take action in real time. The presenter will suggest approaches to bias that can help students to see that: 1) they are not evil just because they harbour stereotypical thoughts; 2) such overgeneralisations are a necessary part of how we deal with the world; and 3) being aware that human thoughts and actions are always based on simplistic images of complex realities is the first step to overcoming the shortcomings of our cognitive systems. The suggestions will include activities for de-centring (stepping outside ourselves to consider multiple perspectives on an event or situation) and seeing ourselves as others do.

Stephen M. Ryan