Enhance Your Awareness

Happy New Year! With a new year comes growth, changes, and new initiatives. This year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Unit has a recommendation: Enhance your awareness - not just of yourself, but your environment and the people around you.

Nathaniel Branden, a Canadian-American psychotherapist and writer once said, "The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance."  Today, we will be discussing implicit bias; what it is, why it matters and how you can address it. By being aware of your own implicit biases and accepting they exist, you have the power to make a difference in how you engage with those around you.

Implicit bias describes the automatic associations you make between groups of people and stereotypes about those groups. It can affect your behavior and decisions without even realizing it. Implicit biases are generated by your brain, trying to streamline information to make processing information more efficient. Your brain may do this by seeking patterns, creating mental short cuts (i.e., general guidelines, educated guess, and common sense), or relying on social and cultural influences.

Everyone has unconscious biases and that is okay. The key is to be aware of such biases so they don't influence your actions and effect your decisions.

Below are some popular types of implicit bias.

  1. Affinity Bias, also known as similarity bias, is the inclination people have to gravitate toward those similar to them. For example those who share the same race, gender, age, educational background, etc.
  2. Anchoring Bias is the impulse to rely too heavily on the first piece of information obtained about someone. 
  3. Ageism is the tendency to have preconceived feelings about someone based on their age.
  4. Attribution Bias refers to the systematic errors made when people make judgements and assumptions about why others behave in certain ways.
  5. Beauty Bias is a social behavior in which people view attractive people more favorably. They may see them as more competent, qualified and successful.
  6. Confirmation Bias is the propensity to search for, interpret, favor and recall information in a way that supports one's prior believes or values.
  7. Conformity Bias, also referred to as peer pressure, is when people depart from their own beliefs/values and act in accordance with the people around them.
  8. Contrast Effect is when an individual compares two or more people because they came in contact with them consecutively or simultaneously, thus causing them to exaggerate the opinion of one in contrast to the other.
  9. Gender Bias is the predisposition to prefer one gender over the other.
  10. Halo Effect is the tendency to view a person more positively after learning something impressive about them.
  11. Horn Effect is the tendency to view a person more negatively after learning something unpleasant about them.
  12. Racial Bias: is the judgement of a person based on the color of their skin.

Above are just a few common implicit biases that occur. Can you identify more?

Remember, implicit and explicit biases are different. Implicit biases are associations and feelings on an unconscious level, whereas explicit biases are attitudes and beliefs held on a conscious level. It is possible for someone to have implicit biases contrary to their conscious or declared beliefs. However, beware, implicit biases can become explicit biases. This occurs when you become consciously aware of the prejudices and beliefs you possess. Once they surface in your conscious mind, you then have the power to suppress or express them.  So next time you get a certain feeling about someone, think twice. Maybe you are experiencing an implicit bias. Reflect on how you are feeling and use your awareness to process your feelings and attitudes before acting or deciding because awareness is the first step to change.