Hi! My name is Talia Wiseman. I am a senior from Washington D.C, double-majoring in Psychology and Economics. As an economics and psychology student, I am interested in the field of behavioral economics and behavioral sciences, which combine the two disciplines to better understand human decision-making. This past summer, I interned on the Health Team at the Center for Advanced Hindsight (CAH), a behavioral economic research center. This experience broadened my understanding of the applications of behavioral science for improving individuals’ lives, and instilled a passion in me to learn more about how we can use the insights from this interdisciplinary field in a variety of settings. My involvement with CAH led to my current Gil Internship as a research assistant for my mentor Dr. Ovul Sezer, an Associate Professor and Researcher at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Dr. Sezer studies misguided social heuristics – commonplace and habitual behaviors used in social situations that often have an undesired effect. Behaviors such as mansplaining, humble bragging, backhanded compliments, or even sharing an inside joke are actions most everyone uses in social interactions, yet can create animosity among friends and coworkers. Dr. Sezer aims to understand what drives us to use these ineffective social behaviors, when they are most used, and how we can change these actions to more optimal practices. In the business world, these behaviors can be even more detrimental, leading not only to social consequences, but also organizational breakdowns and other repercussions. The business and academic world alike are starting to realize that traditional methods for solving workplace issues detrimental to the overall business mission are not effective remedies. Behavioral scientists such as Dr. Sezer aim to use multi-method approaches, ranging from lab experiments to field observation, to find a more unorthodox and effective solution.
The project I am currently working on focuses on mansplaining. Although many argue on the details of mansplaining, in general, the term refers to a behavior in which a man explains things to an expert woman, without regard to the fact that the woman knows more. My tasks thus far on the project have focused on collecting qualitative data on people’s experiences with mansplaining, as well as gaining a general understanding of what people believe mansplaining to be. First, I analyzed participants responses in which they were asked to detail their experiences with mansplaining. The purpose was to find common characteristics and topics frequently seen in mansplaining situations. Although some traits were fairly expected, such as condescension or the stating of “fact” without an explanation, what was most surprising to me were the wide variety of matters on which women experienced mansplaining. Topics ranged from cars, video games, and politics to even things as arbitrary as how to make coffee or boil an egg. Following this task, I have also been observing and collecting information on mansplaining on the internet ‒ specifically in the comment sections of a website called The Conversation, a non-profit media outlet using content from academics and researchers. With this data, we are hoping to observe differences in how people respond to male and female academics, and if the same common characteristics of mansplaining observed in the previous study are found here.
The overall aim of the Mansplaining project is not only to end an annoying behavior, but also to remove an interpersonal barrier that prevents the advancement of women in the workplace, and is a significant contributor to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power. Working on this project has opened my eyes to just how far-reaching the consequences of small, misguided behaviors can be. My experience working with Dr. Sezer, and learning more about behavioral sciences through the Karen M. Gil internship has strengthened my passion for behavioral sciences, as I have seen the powerful ways it can make a difference in individuals’ lives, I am excited to continue to assist with the research, and learn alongside Dr. Sezer how mansplaining, and other erroneous practices, can be prevented through behavioral science.