Implicit Bias is Real! Now do something about it, please…

This is the first thing we should all understand – we ALL have our preconceived notions and regularly apply them to what we know. Humans are made to compartmentalize things. It is how we organize, think and learn.

These preconceived beliefs can get in the way of what we say and do everyday. This has been bothering me for a while – partly due to the “me too” movement, but also out of the “Black lives matter” and other recent groundswelling movements.

This kind of thinking can keep us from imagining women as surgeons, minorities as leaders, or even keep us from hiring the best person for the job. Maybe you don’t realize you do this, so how can you (1) recognize this type of behavior and (2) change your ways?

If you are looking for the magic switch, I have none for you. However, science can certainly help us. This Scientific American article helps put some framework around what I have been mulling over for a while.

In the article, it notes that “A majority of people taking [the Implicit Association Test (IAT)] show evidence of implicit bias, suggesting that most people are implicitly biased even if they do not think of themselves as prejudiced.” So, we are mostly biased and don’t know that we have a problem. We are mostly living with our heads in the sand on this issue.

What scares me most is reading sentences like:

Race can bias people to see harmless objects as weapons when they are in the hands of black men, and to dislike abstract images that are paired with black faces.

-and-

White applicants get about 50 percent more call-backs than black applicants with the same resumes; college professors are 26 percent more likely to respond to a student’s email when it is signed by Brad rather than Lamar; and physicians recommend less pain medication for black patients than white patients with the same injury.

Yikes!

So what can we do about this? I think first and foremost, admit you have a problem! This is something we ALL deal with – it does not mean you are a bad human being or even racist, sexist or ageist. It does mean that we need to fight the urge to make decisions based on our “gut” feelings. Those data are clearly flawed!

Consciously associate differing opinions with your own. Get outside of your “bubble” and hear different points-of-view. Don’t let these other opinions rile you, but truly listen. You can certainly disagree, but it is okay for others to have different opinions from your own. No one needs to “win” in the point-of-view game.

Instead, I would urge you to have more conversations with diverse people. Get different points-of-view – especially when hiring! Try to get a lot of opinions on a candidate, and make sure your interviewers are from different genders, races, age groups and religious leanings.

Lastly, remember that you have a problem and you are really fighting against human nature to tackle it. Recognize when making decisions that it might be playing into the process. Really push yourself to understand why you make certain decisions. Even consider removing names from resumes when reviewing your candidate pool.

Whatever works to keep your options and minds open – the world will be a better place and you will have a better team as a result, for sure!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.