Mahzarin Banaji is Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and the George A. and Helen Dunham Cowan Chair in Human Dynamics at the Santa Fe Institute. Professor Banaji studies social cognition, focusing primarily on mental systems that operate in implicit or unconscious mode. “Our minds contain knowledge of which we are unaware. Our feelings can be impervious to the assertion of conscious will,” she has said. How the nature of the mind and the shape of the social environment influence ordinary decisions with extraordinary impact is the question she seeks to answer through her research and teaching.
Professor Banaji is a co-developer of the Implicit Association Test, cited as revolutionizing the study of intergroup relations. With Anthony Greenwald and Brian Nosek she co-directs Project Implicit’s website (implicit.harvard.edu) which offers tests for educational and research purposes. Its purpose is to offer direct experience with the mental associations that underlie our beliefs and feelings about social groups (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, religion) to reflect stereotypes and prejudices of which we may be unaware and of which we ourselves may not approve. Experiments have shown that these associations predict behavior towards others, and at times even better than our self-reported thoughts and feelings. Since 1998, more than 10 million tests have been taken by individuals all over the world. Banaji uses such measures with adults and children as well as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to understand the us/them distinction.
Among her awards, Professor Banaji has received Yale’s Lex Hixon Prize for Teaching Excellence, a James McKeen Cattell Award, the Gordon Allport Prize for Intergroup Relations, and the Morton Deutsch Award for Social Justice. Her career contributions have been recognized by a Presidential Citation from the APA in 2007 and the Diener Award for Outstanding Contributions to Social Psychology in 2009. She was recently inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is the President of the Association for Psychological Science. From 2002-2008 Banaji served as the first Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She completed her undergraduate work at Nizam College in India, received her M.A. in Psychology from Osmania University in India, and received her PhD from the Ohio State University.