Implicit Bias: A Look Inside Yourself

It’s possible you’ve heard of implicit bias before, but do you really know what it is? The term implicit bias is used to describe when we unconsciously associate stereotypes with people or have certain attitudes toward them without even realizing it. These attitudes can be related to things like race, ethnicity, gender, age, appearance and more. Many are so deeply entrenched in our society that while we may not directly agree with it, it is still a part of our unconscious thinking.

There are many different ways in which people show implicit bias in the real world. To give you an idea of what this might look like, here are just a few examples of situations in which someone shows an implicit bias:

– Sally spends all of her time staring at her cell phone while at her grandparents’ house. Her grandfather asks her why she never texts him since she’s on her phone so much. Sally’s reason? She had no clue her grandfather knew how to work a cell phone, and assumed he was too old to adapt to the technology. This is an implicit bias toward age and tech, something all too common as technology becomes more and more relevant in our life.

– A group of coworkers, all male except one, are in a meeting and the boss announces he is promoting someone to a new leadership position. While everyone wants this highly-coveted promotion and no one knows yet who it will be, the men in the group have already in their heads excluded the woman as part of the competition. This is an implicit bias toward women in leadership and happens in the workplace all the time.

– A woman is driving through a neighborhood she is unfamiliar with and sees a black man walking with something in his hands. The woman’s mind automatically jumps to the fact that what is in his hands could be a gun, when in fact it’s just a cell phone. This is an implicit racial bias because the woman had no prior knowledge of the man and instead unconsciously jumped to the wrong conclusion.

As you can imagine after reading these scenarios, automatically making these assumptions is not only unfair – it can have serious consequences. Keep reading to understand the implicit bias you have and how you work toward recognizing them and erasing them.

Do I Have Implicit Bias?
The answer is yes, we all do. Implicit bias is pervasive and prevalent in society. While we would all love to say we don’t have any biases, humans are complex and the brain unconsciously picks up on things from a very young age.

While our beliefs may not directly align with these biases, they are so deeply ingrained in the way we think that we aren’t even conscious of it. The good news is that with hard work and focus you can begin to erase these implicit biases that live deep within your thought process. The first step is to take a hard look inside and ask yourself this question:

– What conclusions am I jumping to about a certain person or group of people based on stereotypes and not actual experiences?

How Do I Fix It?

Once you’ve asked yourself the question and identified your implicit biases, there are a few things you do to begin to retrain your brain. Start by immersing yourself in examples of counter-stereotyping. In other words, expose yourself to what is actually true, not what is stereotypical. Think of the people in the group who defy the stereotype and surround yourself with those examples to begin to replace any unconscious thoughts that were incorrect.

Another thing you can do is develop a system to check yourself every time a biased thought comes into your mind. Recognize when this happens and replace that thought with the correct, unbiased connection. If you need to wear a rubber band on your wrist to snap yourself every time it happens, then so be it. Find a way to be self-aware and correct the thoughts that can have a negative impact on others.

Another great approach to help correct the way you view others is to put yourself in their shoes. By viewing the world from their perspective, you should realize just how ridiculous and unfair certain biases can be. Jumping to conclusions is never a good idea, whether unconsciously or not. It’s important for everyone to realize their implicit biases and do what they can to level the playing field for all humans.

By a the word changes Contributor

Antoinette Rodney

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