By: Rachel Godsil and Aya Taveras
Expected Time to Complete: 25 Minutes
Whenever we talk about implicit bias, we know that we will meet with skepticism. The question may be why we are focusing on implicit bias when explicit bias -- racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, violence towards those who are transgender or gender non-conforming -- appears to to be increasing. Data shows that hate crimes are on the rise in the last two years, but it is still the case that the majority of people think that racial and ethnic diversity is very good for the country. Does the fact that those of us who reject explicit bias mean that we can be confident that race, ethnicity, class, gender, and other social identities have no effect on how we treat people?
The clear answer is no -- the research is overwhelming that people’s social identities do matter and that we are most at risk of treating people unfairly if we ignore this fact. This video will explain how our unconscious brains operate and why we need to understand our implicit biases to reduce or override their effect:
The idea that our unconscious brains control our actions more than our conscious decisions may seem surprising — so we invite you to engage in the following activity .Simply state the color of the text that you see appear on your screen.
If you are like most people the task seemed ridiculously easy — until it wasn’t. Think about what made stating the colors suddenly confusing. What did you initially do when the color of the text differed from the actual word? You probably read the word. Why? Because since you learned to read, when you see letters that make words, you read them to find meaning. You have what scientists call a strong schema for reading words when you see them.
So now you know the trick: to do the task perfectly, ignore the words and just focus on the color.
That was likely still challenging, but not impossible. Our unconscious brains are powerful, but not impossible to override. In the second round, hopefully you were able to override your brain’s automatic response by focusing — and if you’d been able to slow the task down, you would have done even better. Implicit bias is our brains wanting to read, and overriding is self-correcting to align our behavior with our desired outcomes.
As Dushaw Hockett says in his talk, a bias can be a preference for or an aversion or prejudice about a particular group. It turns out in-group preference can cause harm — and is far more common that blatant hostility toward the "out-group." One group getting preferences over and over again leads to accumulated advantage. One way in-group preference shows up is by affecting whether mistakes are seen as a product of external factors or personal flaws: if a person is late, is their lateness attributed to traffic delays or time-management issues. This is called "attribution error" and as we’ll explore in later MLMs, it can have major effects on how teachers treat students or how employers see employees.
PERSONAL AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL REFLECTION
|As we close this MLM, we invite you to take a few moments to reflect on the following from your own personal experiences:
CONNECTIONS/CALLS TO ACTION
|It may feel uncomfortable to accept it, but every person has implicit biases --preferences for some groups, aversions to others, associations linked to identities. We are even vulnerable to having implicit biases about groups we are part of — the unconscious is social not personal and we all live in a culture that creates stereotypes about groups.
The work we have to do is figure out how our implicit biases may show up and whether they may cause harm or give advantages to some that we deny to others.