Dr. Mahzarin Banaji is an experimental psychologist who also uses neuroimaging (fMRI) to explore the implications of her work for questions of individual responsibility and social justice in democratic societies. In her bestselling work, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, she explores the hidden biases that we all carry from a lifetime of experiences with social groups – age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, or nationality.
Mahzarin Banaji was born and raised in India, received her PhD From Ohio State University and did postdoctoral work at the University of Washington. From 1986-2001 she taught at Yale University where she was Reuben Post Halleck Professor of Psychology. Since then she has been Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. She also served as the first Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and as George A. and Helen Dunham Cowan Chair in Human Dynamics at the Santa Fe Institute. Banaji was named Harvard College Professor for excellence in undergraduate teaching and previously won Yale’s Lex Hixon Prize for Teaching Excellence. She is currently Chair of the Department of Psychology and serves as Senior Advisor to the Dean of the FAS at Harvard on Faculty.
In 2005, Banaji was elected fellow of the Society for Experimental Psychologists, in 2008 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 2009 was named Herbert A. Simon Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and in 2015 inducted as Fellow of the British Academy.
She has been awarded a James McKeen Cattell Award, the Gordon Allport Prize for Intergroup Relations, the Morton Deutsch Award for Social Justice, the Kurt Lewin Award for outstanding contributions to the development and integration of psychological research and social action, the Carol and Ed Diener Award for Outstanding Contributions to Social Psychology, and SESP’s Award for Scientific Impact and the Campbell Award for distinguished scholarly achievement and ongoing sustained excellence in research in social psychology.
In 2016 Banaji received the William James Fellow Award for “a lifetime of significant intellectual contributions to the basic science of psychology” from APS, an organization of which she also served as president. In 2017 Banaji received the American Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution. Her work has been recognized by Barnard College’s highest honor, the Medal of Distinction (2014), and honorary degrees from Smith College (2015), Colgate University (2016), the University of Helsinki (2016) and Carnegie-Mellon University (2017).
Banaji has also received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association.
Banaji studies the disparities between conscious expressions of values, attitudes and beliefs on the one hand, and less conscious, implicit representations of mental content. She has primarily studied social attitudes and beliefs in adults and children, relying on multiple methods including cognitive/affective behavioral measures and neuroimaging. Her work is generally regarded to have opened people’s minds to the possibility of their values and aspirations being inconsistent with their behavior. Banaji has explored the implications of her research for questions of individual responsibility and just treatment in democratic societies.
Her current research interests focus on the origins of social cognition and applications of implicit cognition to improve organizational practices. Her book with Anthony Greenwald, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, was published in 2013 by Delacorte Press.