How Implicit Bias Develops, and How to Decrease It
This type of bias connects automatically beyond our awareness.
Posted February 15, 2023 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
- A starting point to understanding implicit bias is the concept of intolerance.
- Another salient component of implicit bias is one’s degree of insularity.
- Diversity is seen as the threat to one’s sense of the status quo.
- Displacing automatic reflexive reactions requires a higher level of self-observational skills.
Implicit bias is unconscious bias. This type of bias connects automatically beyond our awareness. Where does implicit bias come from? How is it reinforced? Are there specific strategies that psychologists can begin to implement that will alleviate one’s implicit bias?
As educators, we need to become more aware of the concept of implicit bias. This type of bias feeds attitudes and stereotypes that influence our understanding, our actions, and our decision-making in an unconscious manner. “Operating outside of our conscious awareness, implicit biases are pervasive, and can challenge even the most well-intentioned and egalitarian-minded individuals, resulting in actions and outcomes that do not necessarily align with explicit intentions” (Staats, 2016).
A starting point to understanding implicit bias is the concept of intolerance. When we are intolerant, we are demonstrating our narrow band of acceptance toward another’s ideas, actions, or being. This narrow band of acceptance operates at the expense of gathering more information. We are making judgements with insufficient knowledge. Our lack of awareness and unconscious bias is reinforced through repetition. Likeminded people can unite to manifest this implicit bias into stereotypes that become self-fulfilling.
Our intolerance can be resolved by thinking: “I accept it when other people do things that I wholeheartedly disapprove of." And, “Even people whom I detest have the right to live their own life," And, “One can only judge the norms and values of another culture from that culture itself." And, "I do not care if people want to live differently than me” (Verkuyten et al., 2022).
“A flawless delusion is more appealing to the human mind than a flawed reality.” —Abhijit Naskar
Another salient component of implicit bias is one’s degree of insularity. Insularity surfaces in situations in which we have a narrow view of others based on a lack of exposure or experience to their differences. Our judgments are again based on a lack of understanding, awareness, and exposure.
When insularity and intolerance align we have the “perfect storm” for implicit bias. The unconscious mind can now substantiate and obtain implicit bias confirmation. Once the mind has confirmation bias, the work to dismantle these automatic responses of implicit bias becomes even more difficult. A narrow view of implicit bias utilises both one’s intolerance and insularity as a protective shield to the potential of diversity. Diversity is seen as a threat to one’s sense of the status quo. This status quo becomes impervious to change.
Changing one’s implicit bias requires broadening one’s perspective, which will have an immediate influence on both intolerance and insularity. Acceptance of others' diverse views while exploring unknown avenues of experience will enhance awareness and empathy. Diversity allows for inclusion without any loss of independence.
The synergy created is more cooperative and less competitive. Judgment is replaced with acceptance. Fresh ideas can lead to more creative solutions and innovation. As diversity and understanding increase, the triggers to intolerance are decreased. The compulsive need to be insular diminishes.
Conscious Replaces Unconscious
Decreasing implicit bias allows the conscious mind to be free and replace the unconscious mind more often. Automatic unreasoned thoughts and reactions have more holidays. Reflection has the opportunity to displace reflex. We are now empowered to expand our narrow perspective.
Displacing automatic reflexive reactions requires a higher level of self-observational skills. We realize that intolerance and insularity are no longer needed or valued. The unconscious mind consists of reactions to our self-story, which have been influenced by our historical recollections. Much of our self-story is inaccurate due to our lack of self-observational skills. Transitioning from our self-story to our more accurate self-observations will ensure that our consciousness level is elevated and enhances our capacity to promote rather than hinder our personal growth.
Staats, C. (2016). Understanding Implicit Bias: What Educators Should Know. American Educator, v39 n4 p29-33, 43 Win 2015-2016
Verkuyten, M., Yogeeswaran, K. and Adelman, L. (2022). The social psychology of intergroup tolerance and intolerance. European Review of Social Psychology. Published online: 13 July 2022.