Hours before her TEDxBinghamtonUniversity talk, we sat down with Mollie Teitelbaum, a senior double-majoring in comparative literature and philosophy at Binghamton University. As she got ready to give her talk on “implicit peccadillic biases” — a term she coined herself — she shared some background on her upcoming speech. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Pipe Dream: What made you to apply to give a TEDx talk?
Mollie Teitelbaum: I was in the middle of working on this thesis paper on the same topic that I’m talking about. My friends and my family, who [I] had started to tell about it, [said] it sounded helpful and it helped them to be nicer to people and just less annoyed generally. I thought if I could tell more people that would be really cool. Then I looked at this email and I [thought] this is what I should probably do.
PD: How did you prepare for your talk?
MT: I met with the public speaking lab every week — I had a pretty different talk three weeks ago. I had done it for a couple of friends but then I did it for another friend and he was like “you can do way better.” Then I re-did the whole thing. That’s the talk I have now and have been practicing the past few weeks.I recorded it, listened to it in my ear all the time — that’s how I’m used to memorizing lines for shows and stuff, so that worked for me.
PD: Your talk is on peccadillic implicit biases. What inspired you to study those, and what are they?
MT: I made them up, it’s an original term. They’re implicit biases, subconscious habits toward traits and habits that bother us out of proportion, like if people chew with their mouth open, or have a really big ego, or are anxious — things like that. I sort of divided them into categories to make it easier to think about them. Basically maybe a year and a half ago I realized that I sometimes found myself being meaner than I usually am and I couldn’t pinpoint why. Then I realized that it was because of these things that I know bother me sometimes, but I don’t realize that are actually affecting the way I interact with someone. We have these things called conscious biases that we know about, but you can’t have the conscious one without having the subconscious one, and the subconscious one makes you really mean.
PD: What do you hope people are going to take away from this talk?
MT: I hope that people will just start noticing them all the time. You kind of can’t help it once you know what they are. You will realize that people who do these things that set you off, you might notice how you’ve been treating them differently even though you don’t think you did. I hope people will be into it, and try and stop acting on them. Just raising awareness about them would be super exciting.
PD: How about after the talk? Do you want to continue working with these?
MT: Yeah, I want to be a professor, so I want to do research and I want to keep researching this. The work that I’ve done on it is sort of just the start of it in my mind. I want to expand on the research and see what I can do with it.
PD: If you had to give a piece of advice to a student who wanted to give a TEDx talk, what would you tell them?
MT: Look for something that’s important to you, that you care about. If you’re passionate about it, people will be able to tell.