Unpacking bias: perspectives from neuroscience and social psychology

Do we consciously choose how we act in all situations?
Can we act in racist or sexist ways without intending to?









This event will be in English. Portuguese subtitles and sign language will be available.


We make countless decisions each hour, each minute. Most of these decisions are made without our active awareness and while they may be inconsequential to us, they can impact upon other people. For instance, when we choose a seat on the train next to people who look most similar to ourselves or how much eye contact we make (or don’t make). 

In this Ar event, we will start by revealing some surprises hidden within your own unconscious brain. Our host Jovin Jacobs – neuroscience researcher at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown – will illustrate in an interactive manner how all humans are biased in how we act, react and interact with each other, and how that impacts ourselves and the people around us. 

As our special guest for the night we will have Ricardo Borges Rodrigues, a social developmental psychologist at ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon. He will demonstrate how a social scientist measures biases, and show us some results of studies performed in the Portuguese population. Ricardo will share his insights on how children learn, change, and express their biases as they grow up and discuss what we can learn from it.  

Megan Carey, the Principal Investigator at the Neural Circuits and Behaviour Lab at Champalimaud Research, will complement this by explaining how we can study implicit biases in the laboratory to reveal the underlying neural mechanisms by which our brains learn associations, implicitly and explicitly, and how those associations can be re-learned.  

We will end the evening by looking beyond the unconscious, to how we can outsmart ourselves and consciously act  to  stop the perpetuation of discriminatory structures and actions towards our neighbours, colleagues and fellow humans. For this we invite questions from the audience to be discussed at a virtual round table with our speakers and additional expert panellists, bringing both professional and personal perspectives. 

Together, we will have explored how implicit and explicit biases are rooted in our brains and surroundings and discussed what we can do to move towards a more inclusive, less discriminatory environment for all.

Iolanda Évora

PhD in Social Psychology from the University of São Paulo- USP, researcher at CEsA/CSG, ISEG, University of Lisbon and Professor of the Master in International Development and Cooperation (DCI) at ISEG.

Her topics of interest are contemporary African mobilities, Afrodescendence and the processes and dynamics of categorization of ethno-racial minorities and qualitative methodologies. She is coordinator of the AFRO-PORT Project, Afrodescendência em Portugal: sociabilidades, representações e dinâmicas sociopolíticas e culturais. Um estudo na Área Metropolitana de Lisboa (FCT). She completed a postdoctoral fellowship on the production of narratives about migrants and African mobilities (USP, Brazil, 2018). She is co-organizer of In Progress. Seminário sobre Ciências Sociais e Desenvolvimento em África (CesA/ISEg) and of the event Áfricas Contemporâneas. Do continente à diáspora, pensar o universal através dos arquivos afro-diaspóricos (USP, São Paulo, 2019, 1st edition). Editor of the Diáspora cabo-verdiana. Temas em debate (e-book) and co-editor of Ciências Sociais em Cabo VerdeTrabalho, sociabilidade e geração de rendimentos no espaço lusófonoIn Progress. Seminário sobre Ciências Sociais e Desenvolvimento em África; Género e Migrações Cabo-verdianas. She collaborates with the Graduate Program in Social Sciences and the Research Laboratory in Political and Social Sciences of UNICV in Cabo Verde.

Joana Gonçalves de Sá

Group Leader at LIP

Joana Gonçalves de Sá is an Invited Associate Professor at Instituto Superior Técnico (IST-UL) and the leader of the Social Physics and Complexity (SPAC) research group at LIP. Before that, she was an Associate Professor at Nova SBE and a Principal Investigator at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC), where she remains as the Director of the Graduate Program Science for Development (PGCD), aiming at improving science in Africa.  

Joana has a degree in Physics Engineering from IST-UL, and a PhD in Systems Biology from Nova ITQB, having developed her thesis at Harvard University, USA.

Her current research uses a computational and data-driven approach to study complex problems at the interface between Biomedicine, Mathematics and Behavior, with a large ethical and societal focus. In 2019, she was the recipient of an ERC Starting Grant to study human behaviour using the online spread of “fake news” as a model system.

Jovin Jacobs

INDP PhD Student at Carey Lab, Champalimaud Research

PhD student in the Neural Circuits and Behaviour Lab at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown who is interested in understanding how the brain implements various computations.

Megan Carey

Group Leader at Champalimaud Research

Group Leader in the Neuroscience Program at the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal. She received her PhD in 2005 from the University of California, San Francisco, where her thesis was awarded UCSF’s Krevans Distinguished Dissertation Award. After a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Carey started her independent laboratory at the Champalimaud. Her lab combines quantitative behavioral analysis, genetics, and physiology to understand how the brain controls learned and coordinated movements. Megan was an International Early Career Scientist of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and her lab is funded by the European Research Council. She serves on the Board of Reviewing Editors for the journal eLife, and the Board of Directors for the Society for the Neural Control of Movement and the ALBA Network for Equity and Diversity in Brain Sciences (now Chair Elect). She has formerly served as the Chair of the FENS Kavli Network of Excellence (a network of early-mid career European neuroscience PIs), and as a high-level policy advisor to the former European Commissioner for Research & Innovation, Carlos Moedas.

Ricardo Borges Rodrigues

Professor and Researcher at ISCTE-IUL and CIS-IUL

An invited assistant teacher at ISCTE-IUL and integrated researcher at CIS-IUL. With a PhD in Social and Organizational Psychology, he conducts research in the area of ​​intergroup relations in childhood and adolescence, namely on the development and expression of prejudice and discrimination in educational contexts. Director of the Master in Psychology of Intercultural Relations and the local academic coordinator of the Erasmus Mundus Global Mobility, Inclusion and Diversity in Society (Global-Minds). At CIS-IUL, he currently coordinates the intervention project TEIP3 (consultancy to school districts) and is co-coordinating the joint research project with ICS-IUL “The Social Development of Human Values ​​in Childhood and Adolescence (FCT – PTDC / SOC-SOC / 30635/201). He has also served in expert committees, such as the Commission for Monitoring and Supervision of Educational Centers (2016-2020) and the advisory group for the Curricular Autonomy and Flexibility Project (DGE, 2017).


Joe Paton
Cindy Poo
Eric DeWitt
Rita Figueiredo
Tatiana Silva
Denise Camucho

Alexandre Azinheira
João Frazão
Denise Camacho
André Marques
Sam Meyler
Diogo Matias

Tiago Coelho
Hedi Young
Ana Casaca
Catarina Ramos
Laura Ward
António José Monteiro