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Check your Bias at the Door!

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

Implicit Bias: Psychologist have extensively researched implicit bias, revealing that without even knowing it we all possess our own implicit bias. The term implicit bias was first coined back in 1995 by psychologist Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald, where they proposed that social behavior is largely influenced by unconscious associations and judgments. Operate at subconscious level, run contrary to conscious beliefs, trigger through mental association with people, ideas and objects that shape and mold behavior.

Implicit refers to attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decision in an unconscious way, making them difficult to control. Implicit biases become evident in many different domains of society. On an interpersonal level, they can manifest in simple everyday interactions. For example, when microaggressions make others feel uncomfortable or aware of the specific prejudices you may hold against them. Like racial stereotypes, gender stereotypes etc. Example of holding stereotype that associate Black individuals as violent, which can cause someone to cross the street when a black person approaches. This action is an example of a microaggression, which is subtle, automatic, and nonverbal, that communicates hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward a group (Pierce, 1970). Social Media and Cultural Influences contribute to the rise of implicit associations that people form abut the members of social groups. The way individuals are portrayed can lead to implicit bias.

Explicit Bias: refers to biases we are aware of on a conscious level, like some of what we witnessed in the SCOUTUS confirmation hearing. (Ketanji Brown) Like the microaggressions thrown at her during the proceedings. There’s little question that bias is playing a role in Jackson’s questioning, says Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates. It’s “both implicit and explicit," Farrell said. “That is the infuriating reality of Black women’s experiences vying for positions of power across professions." Take something as seemingly insignificant as the repeated word “articulate.” Lawmakers’ astonishment that a Harvard Law School grad and sitting judge was well-spoken was pretty appalling.

In fact, Black professionals in the U.S. experience microaggressions like being called "articulate" at much higher rates than other racial groups, according to a 2019 Coequal study. Among Black workers, 58% said they'd experienced racial prejudice at work, compared to 15% for White workers. Another report from McKinsey & Company found Black women are more than three times as likely as White women to hear people express surprise at their language skills or abilities. Kelsey Butler:Bloomberg 3.22.22. Explicit bias refers to the attitudes and beliefs we have about a person or group on a conscious level. Much of the time, these biases and their expression arise as the direct result of a perceived threat. When people feel threatened, they are more likely to draw group boundaries to distinguish themselves from others. Research has shown that white people are more likely to express anti-Muslim prejudice when they perceive national security to be at risk and express more negative attitudes towards Asian Americans when they perceive an economic threat. When people perceive their biases to be valid, they are more likely to justify unfair treatment or even violence. Expressions of explicit of bias (discrimination, hate speech, etc.) occur as the result of deliberate thought. Thus, they can be consciously regulated. People are more motivated to control their biases if there are social norms in place which dictate that prejudice is not socially acceptable. As we start forming our biases at an early age, it is important that we reinforce norms in our homes, schools, and in the media that promote respect for one’s own and other groups.

Check out this Tik Tok by MrsPurnell282 as she explains her personal experience and examined her own beliefs and changed her behavior.

How to Reduce Implicit Bias

Research shows that emphasizing a common group identity (such as “we are all Americans”) can help reduce interracial tensions that may arise between majority and minority ethnic groups in the U.S. Also, when conducted under the right conditions, studies show intergroup contact between people of different races can increase trust and reduce the anxiety that underlies bias.

Implicit biases impact behavior, but there are things that you can do to reduce your own bias:

  • Focus on seeing people as individuals. Rather than focusing on stereotypes to define people, spend time considering them on a more personal, individual level.

  • Work on consciously changing your stereotypes. If you do recognize that your response to a person might be rooted in biases or stereotypes, try to consciously adjust your response.

  • Take time to pause and reflect. To reduce reflexive reactions, take time to reflect on potential biases and replace them with positive examples of the stereotyped group.

  • Adjust your perspective. Try seeing things from another person's point of view. How would you respond if you were in the same position? What factors might contribute to how a person acts in a particular setting or situation?

  • Increase your exposure. Spend more time with people of different racial backgrounds. Learn about their culture by attending community events or exhibits.

The difference in the terms

Today terms are thrown around with little distinction, but if you want to know the difference, check out the definitions below

Prejudice: Preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience

Bias: Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered unfair.

Discrimination: The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds or race, sex, age, religion etc

Racism: The marginalization or oppression of people based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people.

Research and Resources:

§ Understanding your racial bias, Yale University PHD, John Dovidio,

§ Abound, F.E (1988) Children and prejudice. B Blackwell

§ Banaji. M. and Greenwald A. G. “Blindspot”

§ Jennifer Eberthardt Biased “Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that shapes what we see think and do”

§ When Implicit Bias Becomes Explicit, Megan Fuciarelli, TEDx


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