In the previous post we looked at conformity bias, our tendency to take social cues for proper behavior from the actions of others. While there are many biases that people develop consciously, conformity bias is a form of implicit, unconscious bias.
As this Ethics Unwrapped video points out, implicit biases develop at an unconscious level, often bred by our upbringing, experiences we’ve had, or what we’ve been taught. While a person may truly believe they are unbiased, it is implicit bias that most influences their behavior in the real world.
If these biases are unconscious, how do we go about flushing them out? Once again, awareness is the name of the game. There are several online courses and assessments available to help you identify areas where this bias exists. The Ethics Unwrapped video also mentions the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a well-known assessment developed at Harvard to measure attitudes and beliefs that participants may not be aware of. While scientists continue to debate the accuracy of its results, the IAT still provides an overall picture of how people view other people groups, and how they will behave on average. On the corporate level, Bright Places has a course to help whole teams identify these biases as a means to creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
Although there is no full-proof strategy for eradicating our unconscious biases, becoming aware of them brings them to a more conscious level, allowing us to evaluate our assumptions before we act on them. In doing so we are able to set boundaries for ourselves before our biases negatively affect others.
For example, let’s say you’ve recently become aware of a stereotype you’ve held regarding blonde, white women. Whether it be from a past experience or where you were raised, you’ve unconsciously come to believe that they are unreliable and inept and, in your workplace, you’ve immediately disregarded their input before they’ve even finished giving it. Now aware of that underlying bias, you can be intentional about truly listening and evaluating the merit of their ideas in earnest. Even further, the more positive experiences you have with women in this group can actually shift and rewire those biases.
Awareness of our implicit bias is huge, but it’s useless if we aren’t willing to take it a step further. Put yourself in situations where you’re able to interact with people outside of your circle. Even if we can’t relate to some of their experiences, we can listen and have a greater understanding of who they are and where they’re coming from. Through relationships we can move past our stereotypes to see people as people, and break down stereotypes that have built walls between us and others for far too long.