Unconscious Bias Explained

Unconscious bias or implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions unconsciously. To simplify, it is an unconscious feeling we have towards other people. It is unintentional however it can influence our behaviour and how we interact and assess others.

At an early age unconscious biases can start and continuously develops until adulthood. It impacts behaviour, judgment, and decision making. You may ponder on the decisions that you make in a day and realise that it is countless. Starting from what to eat, wear, and do. As you are reading this, you are making decisions on whether to continue reading or do something else. All of this is highly influenced by unconscious bias.

How do our biases affect us?

  • Our Attitude – the way we respond and react towards others.
  • Our Perception – the way we perceive what happens to us and the people we interact with.
  • Our Behaviours – how friendly and approachable we are to others.
  • Our Attention – choosing what we want to focus on.
  • Our Listening Skills – how much we listen to others.
  • Our Encouragement – on how we affirm and comfort people.

Unconscious bias or implicit bias is everywhere. From the house and car that we choose to buy. The neighborhood and places that we want to go to and the people we want to associate with. But this is most evident in the workplace and thus affects how we respond and how we connect with others. It influences how we treat people. For example, I was asked to interview applicants in my previous workplace. I unconsciously made decisions because of my biases. Out of 3 applicants, I hired the one who was a fresh graduate versus someone who has qualified skillsets and experience. The reason behind this was unconscious bias because the fresh graduate sounded more like me. People may favour those who have many similarities and those who can easily connect with you.

It is important to know and identify our biases by paying attention to reactions from people, situations, etc. For example, you saw a picture of lovers kissing and you reacted with disgust then laughed at the sight of the picture, you may have hidden prejudices against people who show affection in public.

It may be challenging to identify unconscious biases because they are hidden, and the person mostly is not aware of it. But you can start by being conscious of your responses and reactions to people and situations.

There are training techniques to cope with unconscious bias, and it follows a three-step method:

  • The IAT test (implicit association test) – participants take this as their pre-assessment test to assess baseline implicit bias levels. This is free and available online.
  • They need to complete the unconscious bias training task.
  • They take a post-test to evaluate bias levels after training.

Though the efficacy of this program is still not clear they still require participants to undergo follow up tests to evaluate the long term benefit of the training program.
Once you have identified any unconscious bias you will feel more confident that you will be making correct assessments and better decisions. You will reap the fruit of your labor. It will all be a win-win situation.


Resource/ Citations:

https:// www.socialtalent.com/ blog/diversity-and-inclusion/9-types-of-bias/

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