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Implicit Bias: Understanding types of implicit bias is the most important pillar for starting to practice inclusion. It is the first stepping stone to greater self-awareness, adopting more inclusive behaviors, and challenging problematic beliefs.
Implicit bias refers to preconceptions or attitudes that unintentionally negatively impact your understanding, behaviors, and decisions, making them uncontrolled if left untreated and unabated. It is defined as the unsupported and prejudiced judgments against or in favor of a person, group, or one thing compared to the other in a way that is considered usually unfair.
All of you have biases or unsupported assumptions that you make about other people. Also known as unconscious bias, implicit bias includes passing judgments about people unknowingly based on various factors such as their race, sexual orientation, gender, weight, socioeconomic status, or age. While these biases are not always harmful, they are molded by an instinct to survive that causes you to associate with people you perceive to be similar to them as they are deemed to be safe.
Illustrations of unconscious biases are present throughout your professional and personal lives. Books have been written after conducting thorough research. For instance, in a book written by Malcolm Gladwell, it was mentioned that approximately 3.9% of adult men are 6 feet in the general population which is like two inches or taller. And among a random CEO sampling, it was found that nearly a third, or 33.3% fell into this category.
Implicit biases are considered harmful as they influence how you perceive and interact with people. Everybody holds implicit beliefs about various social groups, and such biases can negatively impact our work, study, and social environment. Also, it can lead you to depersonalize people from different groups based on perceived traits. Therefore, learning to recognize them and overcome them is crucial to overcoming racial and social stereotypes, including prejudice.
When talking about explicit biases, these are those where people openly express themselves by arguing. However, implicit biases usually lie outside of your conscious awareness.
Its insidious nature lies in its unconsciousness, as your implicit biases usually contradict the values that you aspire to. For instance, implicit bias is in force if a manager assigns you a technology-heavy task to a young employee rather than an older one based on the unspoken assumption that younger team members are better with technology. Besides, implicit or unconscious bias occurs in the classroom, like marginalizing non-native English speakers while forming workgroups with unconscious belief in mind that they may not perform as well or better than native English speakers. Moreover, when you are not aware that you are doing something wrong, it can be challenging to rectify.
It has become a hot topic in universities, corporations, and groups during the last few years to understand implicit bias. The educators study how implicit biases based on sexual orientation, gender, race, and other identities affect workplaces, educational experiences, employment procedures, and how they influence decision-making.
It would be great if a magic list of techniques to protect yourself from implicit bias. If you’re in a position of relative privilege, you might not feel the effects of damaging stereotypes as much. If you belong to several disadvantaged or stereotyped groups, though, you may feel as if the odds are stacked against you.
It doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile to put in the effort to become conscious of your own biases. It takes a lot of effort to learn to confront stereotypes and incorrect preconceptions. It is beneficial to take a company’s commitment to diversity, belonging, and inclusion and put it into action. You may not always be aware of where these biases come from, but you can always change the actions you take in response to them.
You are liable to make inaccurate generalizations without realizing it, and that too almost always. It could be problematic for the following reasons:
- You act in discriminatory ways as individuals, society, and the workplace because of implicit bias.
- Implicit bias is self-reinforcing. When the bias is left unchecked, it reinforces for others that non-inclusive behaviors are socially acceptable, resulting in a snowball effect that makes it even more challenging to notice and resist.
As a result, understanding the role of bias in influencing your actions is the first step in becoming a more inclusive team member. This self-awareness allows you to go further into your prejudices, find blind spots, and develop the necessary skills to adopt more inclusive behaviors.
Recognizing that you do not always have the good influence you desire is a part of attaining the self-awareness that comes with learning about bias. Reflect on your activities and decision-making processes to see how these biases affect you.
Learning to recognize hidden biases is a critical first step in correcting them. Some of the many implicit biases that exist in today’s culture include:
It occurs when you discriminate against someone based on their age. For instance, when as a hiring manager, you look for a social-media-savvy candidate, you reject a resume just because the applicant is middle-aged by seeing its graduation detail. Here you make an unconscious assumption that the candidate does not have the expertise in social media management.
Age bias affects more women than men and begins at younger ages. Therefore, you must remove graduation dates and work experience dates from the candidates’ resumes while hiring. Besides, realize that older workers may bring experience and skills to the table that younger employees can’t.
When you prefer one gender over another, gender bias occurs. This bias is how you judge women and men based on typical masculine and feminine assigned traits. Also, assuming that one gender can do a particular job better than the other falls under gender bias.
For instance, thinking that a babysitting job can be done better by women than men is an illustration of babysitting, regardless of the experience level and expertise of the applicant.
You can overcome this implicit bias by using neutral language in the job description that does not reflect more with one gender. While thinking about the promotions and development opportunities, try to switch the gender of the individual you are thinking about and then notice if your perception is changed for their readiness.
An unconscious racial and ethnicity stereotype is an example of implicit bias. It occurs when people assume some traits about someone based on their ethnicity or race. Race and ethnicity bias can manifest in small interpersonal interactions and has vast implications in the legal system, including other essential sections of society.
Illustrations may include holding implicit stereotypes associating Black individuals as aggressive. As a result, you may cross the street at night when you see a Black guy walking towards you, without realizing you are crossing the road. Besides, assuming that all Hispanic individuals are English-language learners or all Asian individuals are good at math, and then to take actions that reinforce such biases, such as overseeing without being aware a Hispanic employee for a task that needs vital good English communication skill.
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Similar to gender and racial biases, people may hold an implicit bias against members of the LGBTQIA+ Community. However, it doesn’t mean that these opinions are voiced out loud or even recognized consciously by the beholder.
Before seeing other examples, a straightforward instance could be asking your female friend whether she has a boyfriend, assuming her sexuality. Here you are assuming that heterosexuality is the default or the norm. In this situation, you could ask whether she sees someone. You may not realize it, but here you are, making a judgment without being aware.
In addition, overlooking bisexuals for leadership positions unconsciously based on the assumption that they cannot make up their minds, assigning gay men to design tasks at the workplace without knowing the reasons behind their choice, and assuming that lesbians cannot relate to men, so declining to pair them with male team members reflexively are all examples of LGBTQIA+ Community bias.
It is easy to make judgments based on the appearance of the individual. Here are some examples of the appearance-based implicit biases, which includes:
Judging individuals based on how attractive they think they are called beauty bias. Individuals perceived as beautiful or attractive are more likely to be treated positively. Women are particularly fell victim to beauty bias. While hiring and deciding promotions, focus on their work and not their look.
The tendency of people to treat taller people more favorably is known as height bias. Taller people are more likely to be seen as leader-like and authoritative, whereas shorter individuals, especially men, are more likely to receive negative height bias.
Judging an individual negatively, or assuming negative thoughts about them, just because they are heavier or larger than average. Also, to judge a person if they are underweight falls underweight bias.
Rather than looking at the person’s appearance, it would help to look at their experience, skills, and expertise.
It occurs when your impression of someone unconsciously influences your opinion of a different aspect of their character. The halo effect is in play when you tend to think more highly of them after knowing something impressive about them or, in contrast, perceiving an individual negatively after knowing something inappropriate about them.
This bias usually occurs during performance appraisals and hiring in the corporate and business world. For instance, if a candidate dresses modishly for their job interview, you might assume without realizing that they are more skilled than a candidate dressed ordinarily or has a stain on their clothes.
Ask yourself why you have had a positive or negative perception, whether your perception has stemmed from unconscious stereotyping based on gender, race, or age, for example. Consider including diverse perspectives in the hiring process to combat this implicit bias and make your workplace more inclusive. Besides, you must evaluate your reasoning before making a final decision.
Also referred to as like-likes-like, this bias relates to your tendency to incline towards similar people. This may mean that promoting or hiring someone who shares the same gender, age, educational background, race, or you may have an affinity with the person you have attended the same college, hail from the same town, or they remind you of someone you like or know. Although you may have some affinity with individuals, your micro-affirmations play out more than they would have.
For example, if they say that they are a little nervous, you may offer encouraging words or smile at them, whereas if the person you share no connection with tells you the same thing, you perhaps would not be as warm towards them as with the former.
The following are some strategies for combating implicit biases:
- Become more conscious of your prejudices and the origins of your biases
- Improve your exposure to members of various groups and develop interpersonal interactions with people different from you. Concentrate on seeing people as individuals rather than members of a group
- Intentionally concentrate on and critically challenge your own internalized preconceptions.
- Take some time to consider how you make judgments that affect others and be open to the possibility of prejudice.
It is natural to feel uncomfortable when you start to know how bias affects you, as it is not readily accepted that you may negatively impact others. However, refusing to acknowledge your biases will impede you from having the positive impact you want. Bias is a natural aspect of being a human. All have biases, and everybody makes mistakes. But what matters most is what you choose to overcome it.
Implicit bias affects social situations, school, and the workplace. It would be best to avoid it through conscious decision-making and awareness. Take inventory of your biases and layout various strategies to overcome them. It helps you lead to a more balanced and equitable society.