Bias is defined as allowing personal opinions to influence your judgements in a unfair way and can be influenced by mental processes of perception, memory, judgment and reasoning, also known as cognitive bias.

Cognitive biases (sometimes referred to as implicit or unconscious bias) 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 many people 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.

Watch the animation below for an introduction to ‘unconscious bias’.

Professor of Psychology, Patricia Devine explores implicit and explicit forms of prejudice which she developed into a prejudice habit-breaking intervention. Devine writes that to change our behaviours we need:

  • INTENTION to acknowledge our bias and motivation to change
  • ATTENTION to when stereotypical responses or assumptions are activated
  • TIME to practice new strategies designed to “break” the automatic associations

    You can read more about the study here: Devine, P., Forscher, P., Austin, A and Cox, W. (2012) Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: A prejudice habit-breaking intervention
    Devine offers five strategies which can be applied to a situation when you realise you are experiencing bias. In the Creative Mindsets workshops with students and staff, we’ve reflected on how we might apply these in different ways: in our approach to our creative practice, in the choices we make about curriculum content, in our approach to assessment. Below they are presented with some prompts for further consideration

Stereotype replacement

Recognise the response is stereotypical – label it, identify it and come up with an alternative, unbiased replacement response.

the image shows an illustration of two men on a flowery, purple and orange background; the taller man wears a cropped top and denim shorts with thigh-high high heel boots, the shorter man wears rainbos coloured cargo trousers
Image by Andreea Stan
th image is a screenshot of Vogue website, showing a young black woman; the text reads - We urgently need more black female professors in the UK universities
Professor Nicola Rollock (2019) We Urgently Need More Black Female Professors in UK Universities, Vogue

Counter-stereotype imaging

Create an opposite image in your mind to make a positive association with a counter-stereotypic image.

(instead of generalising)

Make a conscious effort to avoid making quick decisions based on stereotypes – get information about individual people in a group rather than generalising.

Perspective Taking

Be compassionate. Imagine you are that individual – how might it feel to be affected by negative stereotypical thoughts and actions.

Increased opportunities for contact

Seek out opportunities to engage with other individuals and groups.

In the interview below, Vikki Hill speaks to Dr Gurnam Singh (Associate Professor of Equity of Attainment, Coventry University and Visiting Fellow in Race and Education at University of the Arts London) about implicit bias, notions of fixed intelligence and stereotypes in a higher education context.

‘From Implicit Bias to Unconscious Non-Bias’ Dr Gurnam Singh with Vikki Hill

The three short films below are from academics who explore ideas of bias, belonging, ‘otherness’, community and changes to practice and policy.

Dr Gunam Singh:
Navigating with the birds: Belonging

Dr Gurnam Singh (Associate Professor of Equity of Attainment, Coventry University and Visiting Fellow in Race and Education at University of the Arts London) interviewed by Vikki Hill

Zey Suka-Bill: Intercultural awareness at LCC

Zey Sukka-Bill (Interim Dean of Screen at London College of Communication, UAL) speaks about understanding other’s perspectives to build a community.

Andrew Slatter: Attitudes and Behaviours

Andrew Slatter (Senior Lecturer and Contextual and Theoretical
Studies Coordinator for Year 1 GMD, LCC, UAL) considers ways that polices and practices can influence changes to attitudes and behaviours.

Further reading and resources:

Kirwan Institute Implicit Bias Training Module

Based at Ohio State University, the institute have developed a really thorough online module

the image is a screenshot of implicit bias module series website

Play the Fair Play Game
The game is a learning tool to provide the opportunity to increase awareness about different sorts of biases and micro-aggressions along with techniques for overcoming them and addressing them in other people.

the image is a screenshot of a video game showing various people

Podcast – About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge

From the author behind the bestselling Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, comes a podcast that takes the conversation a step further.

Featuring key voices from the last few decades of anti-racist activism, About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge looks at the recent history that lead to the politics of today.

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald (2013).

The authors explore hidden biases that we all carry from a lifetime of experiences with social groups – age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, or nationality.

Project ImplicitHarvard Implicit Associate Test
Psychologists created a range of Implicit Association Tests (IATs), to measure unconscious bias.

Professor Shirley Anne Tate | Whiteliness and institutional racism: Hiding behind unconscious bias

For an excellent Critical Race Theory perspective on structural racism and how institutions use ‘unconscious bias’ to uphold White supremacy, listen to Professor Shirley Anne Tate’s lecture. You can read the published article here: Whiteliness and institutional racism: hiding behind (un)conscious bias by Shirley Anne Tate & Damien Page, 2018.