Who’s Actually in Charge?

May 2, 2014 Leave a comment

“Our minds automatically justify our decisions, blinding us to the true source, or beliefs, behind our decisions. Ultimately, we believe our decisions are consistent with our conscious beliefs, when in fact, our unconscious is running the show.”Howard Ross, Kirwin Institute, 2008

Pages from 2014-implicit-bias

This is the bottom line about implicit bias, as described in the State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2014, which outlines the latest research on implicit bias and its implications in health care, education, judicial system, employment, and housing. Check out this list of characteristics of implicit bias (quoting from the report):

  • Implicit biases are pervasive and robust. Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges.
  • Implicit and explicit biases are generally regarded as related but distinct mental constructs. They are not mutually exclusive and may even reinforce each other. Some research suggests that implicit attitudes may be better at predicting and/ or influencing behavior than self-reported explicit attitudes. Moreover, some scholars suggest that implicit and explicit attitudes should be considered in conjunction in order to understand prejudice-related responses
  • The implicit associations we hold arise outside of conscious awareness; therefore, they do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse.
  • We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own ingroup, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our ingroup.
  • Implicit biases have real-world effects on behavior.
  • Implicit biases are malleable; therefore, the implicit associations that we have formed can be gradually unlearned and replaced with new mental associations.”

Now, consider this. “… Even the most well-meaning person unwittingly allows unconscious thoughts and feelings to influence seemingly objective decisions. These flawed judgments are ethnically problematic and undermine managers’ fundamental work—to recruit and retain superior talent, boost the performance of individuals and teams, and collaborate effectively with partners.” Dr. Mahzarin R. Banaji, Dr. Max H. Bazerman, and Dr. Dolly Chugh, 2003, p. 56

How is implicit bias getting in the way of your fundamental work? What are you willing to do about it?

Check out Got Bias for a review of effective strategies for uncovering and reducing implicit biases.



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