IN THIS SECTION, we will be featuring regularly articles written by the PCIJ or reblogged from our partner organizations like The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists or the Global Investigative Journalism Network. Enjoy!

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By Reg Chua

Reprinted from (Re)Structuring Journalism. Reg Chua is executive editor, editorial operations, data and innovation at Thomson Reuters. He has also served as editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post and had a 16-year career at The Wall Street Journal, including as editor of The Wall Street Journal Asia.

Who should you trust? (Or, for all you pedants out there, whom should you trust?)

It’s an important question for all of us, not least when you’re buying a used car (and believe me, I know.)

But it’s probably even more important for journalists, who talk to strangers on a regular basis and need to make snap judgments about how much faith we should have in what they say.

So here’s the bad news: You shouldn’t trust yourself to figure out who you should trust.

At least that’s the case if I understand Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, a very interesting book by social psychologists Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald, correctly. Blindspot is a good book (although Mahzarin is an even better lecturer; she recently gave a great talk to a number of Thomson Reuters folks) that focuses on the biases and prejudices – “mindbugs,” she calls them – that we have, but that we don’t know we have.

Don’t believe me (or rather, her)? Check out the Harvard Implicit Association Test, which tracks, via the length of time it takes for you to run through a series of matching tests, how strongly you associate one group with a set of traits – for example, female names with domestic terms, as opposed to men and work issues, or white faces with Americaness vs. non-whites. Try the test(s): They’re both scary and enlightening. And if you’re like me, you’ll take them a couple of times because you don’t like how the results turned out.


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