Hi, I’m Dominica McBride, President of The HELP Institute, Inc. and a member of the AEA Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group. I also have my PhD in Counseling Psychology and have provided psychotherapy. This tip focuses on the affective and psychological side of cultural competence in everyday evaluation practice.
Culturally competent evaluation practice requires self-awareness and self-reflection. So much of our evaluation practice is guided by our decisions. It would be nice to think that our decisions are mostly driven by our frontal lobes – the seat of deliberation and reasoning; however, most of our choices are influenced by our subconscious mind, as discovered through recent neuroscience research. Our subconscious mind (influenced by the limbic part of our brains also known as the emotional brain) is constituted of our experiences, exposures, and emotions. Our experiences literally shape the wiring of our brains and repeated exposures to similar messages connect our brain cells, which leads to more automatic thoughts. So, if someone is exposed to repeated messages depicting Muslims as terrorists, for example, our brains begin to incorporate this. These thoughts become a part of us, even subconsciously, and can negatively affect our interactions and decisions in working with the group, especially in the absence of antithetical experiences. Microaggressions, which are unintentional slights towards a person related to their group affiliation, can begin to develop. They can also show up in interactions and decision making within an evaluation, like forgetting or overlooking the inclusion of a certain group in research or evaluation design. For example, a 21st Century study “found” a lack of facial recognition abilities in African-Americans compared to Euro-Americans. However, due to cultural incompetence, the participants were only shown Caucasian faces. When corrected with cultural competence, there was no difference.
The Statement states “cultural competence is a stance taken toward culture” and “culturally competent evaluators respect the cultures represented in the evaluation.” To be culturally competent and value and respect culture and different communities, the Statement asserts that we must challenge our stereotypes and ameliorate our biases. We have to examine and address the biases hidden in our subconscious that influence our decision making, interactions with others, and evaluation practice.
- Take the Implicit Association Test. This test will inform you of some of your implicit biases.
- Examine your biases through journaling and deliberately find and create experiences that counter your stereotypes and make conscious note of experiences that do not support them.
- Blink is a good book that describes our subconscious mind and its influences on decision-making and interactions with others
- Crash is a provocative movie graphically demonstrating explicit and implicit biases and their effects on others
The American Evaluation Association will be celebrating Cultural Competence Week. The contributions all this week come from the Cultural Competence committee. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to email@example.com. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluator.