Operating on Autopilot


Expectations help us quickly navigate our world. Yet they can also keep us from the simple solutions, talent, and opportunities that are right in front of us.


Research from Boston University shows that we still fall prey to the surgeon riddle: only 14% of BU students got the answer right. Full story by BU Today’s Rich Barlow.

"Soon there were #Ilooklikeanengineer tweets from women all over the world (and a few men) (and other creatures), tired of surprised looks when they meet a client for the first time, or arrive at an interview". From Susan Svrluga’s "#ilooklikeanengineer wants to challenge your ideas about who can work in tech" (The Washington Post).

"A photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than by what’s in front of it". Watch this video by Canon Australia to see just how powerful our expectations can be.

"I work for a plumbing company. You probably wouldn’t guess by looking at me, but I talk about toilets all day long". Put the face to this quote here.


Johnson, Carolyn Y. (2016, October 14). The disturbing reason why we don’t believe young black women are really doctors. The Washington Post. Retrieved from: www.washingtonpost.com

Moss-Racusin, C. A., Dovidio, J. F., Brescoll, V. L., Graham, M.J., & Handelsman, J. (2012). Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(41), 16474-16479.

Wilmuth, C. & Banaji, M. R. [Revisiting the Surgeon Riddle]. Unpublished raw data.


Operating on Autopilot was created and developed by Mahzarin Banaji, Olivia Kang, and Evan Younger with funding from PwC and Harvard University.

Narration by Olivia Kang, featuring Professor Mahzarin Banaji (Harvard University) and excerpts from Radio Boston (courtesy of WBUR).

Sound Editing & Mixing by Evan Younger

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Artwork by Olivia Kang

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