Insightful Talks on Psychology and Race within Economics
By Shamantha Rajaram, South Africa
Attending a captivating and insightful lecture can be a truly enriching experience and today, SUSI scholars were in for a treat. For me, as an industrial psychologist, I was especially excited as today, we spoke about psychology! We had the opportunity to listen to two captivating and insightful talks both delivered by esteemed professors at Amherst College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, respectively. In the morning session, Jakina Guzman laid a solid foundation for her talk on The social and psychological features of economics and after lunch Traci Parker unpacked Economics and race. The speakers’ extensive research in the field, along with numerous published works, showcased not only their mastery of the subject matter, but their innate passion for their fields.
Who would have thought that a game of cards could leave an indelible mark on our minds and sparking a sense of awe and wonder! Professor Guzman aptly interwove the public goods game to demonstrate to the class that we need to think beyond the individual to the collective good of society. The game came with a share of profit and Alina won four dollars (which she did not share ☹ but well done on the strategizing, Alina!) We learned how two powerful disciplines, namely economics and psychology, meet to provide profound insights into the way people think, act and make purchasing decisions. Professor Guzman explained that biases, heuristics, nudging and social influences impact our decision-making, and by acknowledging these, meaningful insights can be obtained. These insights can spur improved systems, policies and business to align with human behavior. We delved deeper to understand how rationality meets irrationality, how logic partners with emotion and how our decisions are driven by subtle forces that we barely understand.
In her talk on economics and race with reference to African Americans, Professor Traci Parker spoke candidly on how, racial discrimination has influenced economic outcomes
for African Americans. She discussed slavery, colonialism and segregation as some of the historical practices that have had profound and long-lasting economic impacts on the African American community. Her talk stimulated discussion among SUSI scholars who were eager to share narratives from their countries. This talk resonated well with me as a South African, as in the not-so-distant past, South Africa was plagued by one of the most oppressive and divisive systems in its history, apartheid. Hence, a flood of memories of our own struggle engulfed my mind as Professor Parker spoke of the struggle of African Americans in confronting the systemic barriers that perpetuate economic inequality based on race. It brought much solace to me to learn that despite these barriers, African Americans have made remarkable strides and contribution to the economic landscape of the United States, just as South African back home are doing.
As the eventful day of talk, discussion and debate drew to a close, there were many reflections for us, not only for ourselves, but for our communities and our respective countries too…And so, SUSI scholars left class today ready to embrace whatever adventures the new day would bring and the ITD would certainly not disappoint!
All opinions expressed by the program participants are their own and do not represent nor reflect official views from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, or of the Institute for Training and Development, Inc.