Implicit bias refers to mental processes of perception, memory, judgment and reasoning, also known as cognitive bias. Cognitive biases arise because our human decision-making processes are not just factual or objective, but are influenced by a variety of factors such as heuristics (common sense intuition/ based on what we know), motivational and emotional (personal experience) and social influences (media stereotypes). Although most of us hold personal values that are in opposition to prejudice, we are strongly influenced by our culture and the way that stereotyped attitudes and biased representations are reinforced through our daily interactions. These stereotypes are learned at a young age, and create automatic bias that can affect our behaviour, even when our conscious values oppose it (Devine, 1989).
Watch this to understand unconscious bias…
Read the Guardian article Four Steps to Killing off Sexism in Science, by Seirian Sumner, September 2015
Professor of Psychology, Patricia Devine, is the special project advisor for Creative Mindsets, and her research explores implicit and explicit forms of prejudice. Devine writes that to change our behaviours we need intention, attention and time.
Intention to acknowledge our unconscious bias and motivation to change
Becoming aware of our potential to behave in unintentionally biased ways is the first step to addressing implicit biases. We also need to be motivated to address, sometimes uncomfortable biases, to make a change.
Attention to when stereotypical responses or assumptions are activated
We need to learn to detect stereotypes in our environment, whether they occur in daily interactions or in the media. We can then begin to monitor our own responses and to figure out when we are most likely to be influenced by these depictions. Although we can’t stop how other people are stereotyped, we can choose to recognise a biased portrayal and express our disapproval.
Time to practice new strategies designed to “break” the automatic associations
After identifying how stereotypes are reinforced by our environment and also when biases are likely to come to mind, we can work to prevent the influence by training ourselves to behave in unbiased ways. Professor Patricia Devine encourages practising these strategies to help break the “prejudice habit”.
Read more about Professor Devine’s research in the May 2017 issue of The Atlantic
Read more from Professor Patricia Devine
- Carnes, M., & Devine, P. G., et al (2012). Promoting institutional change through bias literacy. Journal Of Diversity In Higher Education, 5(2), 63-77.
- Devine, P. G., Forscher, P. S., Austin, A. J., & Cox, W. L. (2012). Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: A prejudice habit-breaking intervention. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(6), 1267-1278.
- Devine, P. (1989) Stereotypes and Prejudice: Their Automatic and Controlled Components Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 56(1), 5-18.
Read this article, Devine’s Bias Habit Breaking by Arif Mahmoud, Senior Project Officer, University of Portsmouth
Read the article and watch the interview ‘From Implicit Bias to Unconscious Non-Bias’ – Vikki Hill, Project Associate: Creative Mindsets with Dr Gurnam Singh, Principal Lecturer in Social Work, Coventry University and Visiting Fellow in Race and Education at University of the Arts London.
Click here to watch more from Dr Gurnam Singh
- The Kirwan Institute has a great range of resources on bias
- University of St Andrews have a good range of resources of the effects of bias
A great reference list from University of Wisconsin can be found here.
Play the Fair Play Game
The game is a learning tool to provide the opportunity to increases awareness about different sorts of unintentional biases along with techniques for overcoming them and addressing them in other people.
Books to read
- Why I’m no longer speaking to white people about race by Rene Eddo-Lodge (2018)
- Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald (2013).
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011)
Take the Harvard Implicit Associate Test
Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington have created a range of Implicit Association Tests (IATs), to measure unconscious bias.