Is it possible to overcome implicit bias? (2023)

An implicit bias is an association, belief, orattitudefor each social group. Implicit biases are one of the reasons people often ascribe certain qualities or traits to all members of a particular group, a phenomenon known asStereotype.

It is important to remember that implicit bias acts almost exclusively on aunconscious level. While explicit bias and bias are intentional and controllable, implicit bias is less so.

A person may even express their explicit disagreement with a particular attitude or belief while still harboring similar prejudices at a more unconscious level. Such prejudices do not necessarily coincide with ours.sense of selfand personal identity. People can also have positive or negative associations with their own race, gender, religion, sexuality, or other personal characteristics.

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Causes of implicit bias

While people would like to believe that they are not susceptible to these implicit biases and stereotypes, the reality is that everyone engages in them whether they want to or not. However, this reality does not mean that you are necessarily prejudiced or inclined to discriminate against other people. It simply means that your brain works in such a way that associations and generalizations are made.

Aside from being influenced by our environment and the stereotypes of the society we were born into, it is often impossible to separate ourselves from society's influence.

(Video) We all have implicit biases. So what can we do about it? | Dushaw Hockett | TEDxMidAtlanticSalon

However, you can become more aware of your unconscious thinking and the way society affects it.

It is the brain's natural tendency to filter, sort, and categorize information about the world that leads to the formation of these implicit biases. Because of these prejudices, we are prone to prejudice:

  • We tend to look for patterns. Implicit bias occurs because of the brain's natural tendency to look for patterns and associations in the perception, or our ability to store, process, and apply information about people in social situations, depends on this ability to form associations about the world.
  • We like to take shortcuts. with the othercognitive biasImplicit bias is the result of the brain's tendency to try to simplify the world. Because the brain is constantly being inundated with more information than it can handle, mental shortcuts make it quick and easy for the brain to sort through all that data.
  • Our experiences and our social conditioning play a role.. Implicit biases are influenced by experience, although these attitudes may not be the result of direct personal experience. Cultural conditioning, media representations, and education can all contribute to the implicit associations people form about members of other social groups.

How people develop prejudices

How is implied bias measured?

The term implicit bias was first coined in 1995 by social psychologists Mahzarin Banaji and Tony Greenwald. In an influential article presenting their theory of implicit social cognition, they proposed that social behavior is largely influenced by unconscious associations and judgments.

In 1998, Banaji and Greenwald published their now-famous Implicit Association Test (IAT) to support theirshypothesis. The test uses a computer program to show respondents a series of pictures and words to determine how long it takes for someone to choose between two things.

For example, subjects may see images of faces of different races along with a positive or negative word. Participants would be asked to click on a positive word when they saw a picture of someone of one race and on a negative word when they saw someone of a different race.

Results analysis

The researchers suspect that a faster click means a stronger unconscious association.If a person quickly clicks a negative word every time they see a person of a certain race, researchers suspect that this could indicate an implied relationshipnegative biasin relation to persons of this race.

(Video) How to Outsmart Your Own Unconscious Bias | Valerie Alexander | TEDxPasadena

In addition to a test of implicit racial attitudes, the IAT has also been used to measure unconscious biases related to gender, weight, sexuality, disability, and other domains.The IAT has grown in popularity and use over the past decade, but has recently come under fire.

The main criticisms include the possible lack of knowledge from the test results.reliability. Respondents can score high on one test and low on the next test because of racial bias.

It is also worrying that the test results do not necessarily correlate with individual behavior. People can score high on the IAT for one type of bias, but these scores may not accurately predict how they would relate to members of a particular social group.

Link between implicit bias and discrimination

It is important to understand that although the two concepts are related, implicit prejudice is not the same as racism. Overt racism involves conscious prejudice against members of a particular racial group and can be influenced by both explicit and implicit prejudice.

Other forms of discrimination that can be influenced by unconscious bias include:age discrimination, sexism, homophobia and ableism.

Being aware of the potential impact of implicit social biases will allow you to play a more active role in overcoming social stereotypes, discrimination and prejudice, among other things.

Implicit bias effects

Implicit prejudices can influence people's behavior towards members of different social groups. Researchers found that this bias can impact multiple attitudes, including school, work, and court proceedings.

Implicit prejudices in school

Implicit bias can lead to a phenomenon known asthe danger of stereotypesin which people internalize negative stereotypes about themselves because of group associations. For example, research has shown that girls often internalize implicit attitudes related to gender and math achievement.

At age 9, the girls were shown to exhibit unconscious beliefs that women prefer language over math. The stronger these implicit beliefs are, the less likely girls and women are to study mathematics in school. It is also believed that these unconscious beliefs play a role in preventing women from pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

(Video) What Everyone Gets Wrong About Implicit Bias Trainings

Studies have also shown that implicit attitudes can also affect how teachers respond to student behavior, suggesting that implicit biases can have a powerful impact on access to education and academic performance.

For example, one study found that black children, and black children in particular, were more likely to be kicked out of school because of behavioral problems.When instructed to watch for challenging behavior, teachers tended to focus on black children rather than white children.

Implicit biases in the workplace

Although the implicit attitude test itself can have difficulties, these problems do not negate the existence of implicit bias. Or the existence and effects of bias, prejudice and discrimination in the real world. Such prejudice can have very real and potentially devastating consequences.

For example, one study found that black and white candidates who sent similar resumes to employers were half as likely to be interviewed as white candidates with the same qualifications.

Such discrimination is likely to be the result of explicit and implicit prejudice against racial groups.

Even as employers work to eliminate potential hiring biases, subtle underlying biases can still influence how people are selected for jobs or promoted to leadership positions.It can be difficult to avoid these biases entirely, but being aware of their existence and making an effort to minimize them can be helpful.

Implicit bias in healthcare

Certainly, age, race, or medical condition should play no part in the treatment of patients; However, implicit biases can affect the quality of care and have long-term effects, including suboptimal care, adverse outcomes, and even death.

For example, a study published inAmerican Journal of Public Healthfound that physicians with high levels of implicit bias tended to dominate conversations with Black patients, and as a result, Black patients had less trust in the provider and rated the quality of their care as lower.

(Video) How to Overcome Unconscious Bias - Making the Unconscious Conscious

Researchers continue to examine implicit biases toward other ethnic groups and certain health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, mental health and substance use disorders.

Implicit prejudices in legal contexts

Implicit bias can also have problematic implications for judicial processes, affecting everything from initial contact with the police to sentencing. The survey found that there are large racial differences in how black defendants are treated in criminal convictions.

Not only are black defendants less likely to receive amicable agreements than white defendants charged with similar crimes, they are also more likely to receive longer and harsher sentences than black defendants.

Strategies to reduce the impact of implicit bias

Implicit biases affect behavior, but there are things you can do to reduce your own biases. Some ways to reduce the impact of implicit bias:

  • Focus on seeing people as individuals.. Instead of focusing on stereotypes to define people, spend time looking at them on a more personal and individual level.
  • Work on consciously changing your stereotypes. When you realize that your reaction to a person may be based on prejudice or stereotypes, make an effort to consciously adjust your reaction.
  • Take time to stop and think. To reduce knee-jerk reactions, take time to think about possible biases and replace them with positive examples from the stereotypical group.
  • adjust your perspective. Try to see things from someone else's point of view. How would you react if you were in the same situation? What factors can contribute to how a person behaves in a particular environment or situation?
  • Increase your exposure. Spend time with people of different races. Learn about your culture by attending community events or exhibitions.
  • practice mindfulness. Try meditation, yoga, or focused breathing to increase mindfulness and become more aware of your thoughts and actions.


While implicit bias is difficult to completely eliminate, there are strategies you can use to reduce its impact. take action likeactively work to overcome their prejudicesGet other people's perspectives, seek more diversity in your life, and be aware of your own thoughts to reduce the impact of implicit bias.

A word from Verywell

Implicit biases can be unsettling, but they're also a ubiquitous part of life. Perhaps most troubling, your unconscious attitudes do not necessarily align with your stated beliefs. While people are more likely to have implicit biases favoring their own group, it's not uncommon for people to also have biases against their own social group.

The good news is that these implicit biases are not immutable. Even if you have unconscious prejudices against other groups of people, it is possible to adopt new attitudes even on an unconscious level. This process isn't necessarily quick or easy, but being aware of these biases is a good start to making a difference.

10 cognitive biases that distort your thinking

(Video) How to Deal with Unconscious Bias?


Can you eliminate implicit bias? ›

Eliminating implicit bias is only possible if people are able to recognize and understand their own biases. Implicit association tests, which can be found online, can help people understand if they have certain biases outside of their own awareness. Once you realize your own biases, you can actively challenge them.

How can we challenge our implicit bias? ›

Challenging Implicit Bias
  1. Become aware of your biases so that you can interrupt them. ...
  2. Study and teach colleagues about implicit bias. ...
  3. Pay attention to gap-closing teachers. ...
  4. Stop tone policing. ...
  5. Tune into implicit bias in your school.
Mar 14, 2016

What are three things you can do to lessen your implicit bias? ›

  • Action 1: Change the Conversation. The phrases implicit bias and unconscious bias are inherently negative. ...
  • Action 2: Authentically Listen. ...
  • Action 3: Create Conditions for Objectivity. ...
  • Action 4: Notice and Name. ...
  • Action 5: Be Persistent and Consistent. ...
  • Action 6: Slow Down!
Jul 12, 2018

Can human bias ever be eliminated from research? ›

While it is probably impossible to eliminate bias, each person can strive to be aware of his or her preferences and alert to situations where the bias can be damaging to the science or ones colleagues.

Is it possible to completely avoid bias? ›

Bias is not something we can easily avoid or stop. It is, however, something we can keep in check – and use to our advantage to make better decisions. Here are three techniques you can use to try and be thoughtful and open, keeping at least some bias out of the equation.

What intervention reduces implicit bias? ›

Increased contact with counter-stereotypes—specifically, increased exposure to stigmatized group members that contradict the social stereotype—can help individuals negate stereotypes, affirm counter-stereotypes, and “unlearn” the associations that underlie implicit bias.

What steps have you taken to reduce bias in the past? ›

Establish a process
  1. Identify the problem. The first step involves clearly defining the problem you're trying to solve. ...
  2. Establish criteria. Next, decide on the criteria that will be important for solving the problem. ...
  3. Weigh the criteria.
Apr 17, 2020

How can one overcome his biases in design thinking? ›

  1. Five ways to overcome your implicit bias. ...
  2. Make personas challenge assumptions. ...
  3. Facilitate workshops that uncover more. ...
  4. Think accessibility from the start. ...
  5. Explore the “unhappy paths” ...
  6. Educate yourself / Involve others.
Oct 29, 2020

How can you reduce bias in yourself? ›

Tips for Reducing Personal Bias
  1. 1) Don't aim for “colorblindness”—meaning, don't try to ignore difference. ...
  2. 2) Learn your history. ...
  3. 3) Work on reducing your stress levels when you're interacting with people who are different from you, because negative encounters can promote more bias and less self-reflection.
Mar 2, 2022

Can biases only be minimized and Cannot be totally eliminated? ›

Bias can be minimized with correct study design and measurement techniques, but it can never be omitted entirely. All studies have bias because humans are involved, and humans are inherently biased. Good scientists will ponder potential sources of bias during study planning phases, working to minimize them.

Can we remove all biases and flaws from collecting data? ›

While it is difficult to ever be sure that all traces of bias have been removed from an investigation, researchers can go a long way to reduce its amount and effect by carefully planning their data collection methods so that the way in which the data is brought together is as fair as possible.

How do you remove bias from user research? ›

10 ways to avoid bias in your user testing research
  1. Ask open-ended questions. ...
  2. Format tasks as goals, not instructions. ...
  3. Don't push users towards a specific outcome. ...
  4. Employ a neutral voice when writing your tasks. ...
  5. Base the flows you test on real user data. ...
  6. Test competitors' platforms for reference.
Apr 24, 2018

What is the most difficult bias to avoid? ›

Confirmation Bias

This is a super-villain of biases. Extremely common and difficult to rectify.

Can a bias be corrected? ›

When an estimator is known to be biased, it is sometimes possible, by other means, to estimate the bias and then modify the the estimator by subtracting the estimated bias from the original estimate. This procedure is called bias correction.

What is the best way to reduce bias and improve decisions? ›

5 tips to avoid decision-making bias
  1. Be humble. Recognize that you are affected by stereotypes. ...
  2. Question your opinions. Ask yourself why you have them. ...
  3. Increase your knowledge of other people; look beyond first impressions. ...
  4. Stay motivated, and look after yourself. ...
  5. Take time to become aware of your emotions.
Mar 25, 2020

What are 2 ways implicit bias can be eliminated in healthcare? ›

Actions that health care providers can take to combat implicit bias, include: Having a basic understanding of the cultures from which your patients come. Avoiding stereotyping your patients; individuate them. Understanding and respecting the magnitude of unconscious bias.

What is the smart goal for implicit bias? ›

In- stead of trying to eliminate implicit bias, a good goal is to reduce the impact of implicit bias on people's behavior by making people aware of the existence of implicit bias and encourage them to consciously evaluate their judgments about others in order to mitigate bias effects.

How can implicit bias be reduced in the workplace? ›

Top tips to help tackle unconscious bias in your firm
  1. Accept that we all have unconscious biases. ...
  2. Make considered decisions. ...
  3. Monitor your behaviour. ...
  4. Pay attention to bias related to protected characteristics. ...
  5. Widen your social circle. ...
  6. Set ground rules for behaviour. ...
  7. Avoid making assumptions or relying on gut instinct.
Feb 23, 2023

How do you remove bias from deep learning? ›

Simple random sampling is one of the most successful methods researchers use to minimize sampling bias. It ensures that everyone in the population has an equal chance of being selected for the training data set. Another idea is to use stratified random sampling.

What are the four ways to reduce implicit bias? ›

Don't stereotype your patients; individuate them. Understand and respect the tremendous power of unconscious bias. Recognize situations that magnify stereotyping and bias. Know the National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards.

What is the first step to avoiding bias? ›

One of the first steps in avoiding bias, is identifying our own. Being willing to look at unconscious bias in our own lives allows us to better combat systemic stereotypes and prejudices.

What is the best way to correct bias? ›

Tools to assist in moving away from bias include:
  1. Exercise personal self-awareness.
  2. Diversify team leaders to include different cultural, geographic and industry experience.
  3. Build blended teams to increase awareness of different perspectives.
  4. Use data to motivate and measure corrective change.

How can cognitive biases be resolved in the strategy making process? ›

One of our favorite ways to combat anchoring bias during strategic planning is to designate a red team to challenge ideas of the group. Attribution bias explains our tendency to underestimate the influence of the situation on people's behavior.

Why is it so hard to eliminate bias? ›

Because we need to make sense of our world. Sense-making is a powerful human motive. Human beings have a universal desire to see order, and pattern in the world, and we find randomness and chaos undesirable (Chatera & Loewenstein, 2016).

What type of intelligence can eliminate biases? ›

Artificial intelligence (AI) can help avoid harmful human bias, but only if we learn how to prevent AI bias as well.

How do you collect data without bias? ›

There are ways, however, to try to maintain objectivity and avoid bias with qualitative data analysis:
  1. Use multiple people to code the data. ...
  2. Have participants review your results. ...
  3. Verify with more data sources. ...
  4. Check for alternative explanations. ...
  5. Review findings with peers.

How do you avoid bias in a questionnaire? ›

Prevent bias in surveys

Avoid framing survey questions that influence respondents to answer a certain way. Be clear and concise. Keep your language simple to avoid misinterpretation. Provide straightforward answers for better assessment results.

How do researchers minimize bias? ›

How to avoid researcher bias
  1. Create a thorough research plan. ...
  2. Evaluate your hypothesis. ...
  3. Ask general questions before specifying. ...
  4. Place topics into separate categories. ...
  5. Summarize answers using the original context. ...
  6. Show responders the results. ...
  7. Share analytical duties with the team. ...
  8. Review research with outside peers.
Feb 3, 2023

How can researchers minimize participant bias? ›

Utilizing blind studies and lowering demand characteristics are two ways to prevent participant bias. Participants could change their behavior because they are aware that they are a part of a study, which can result in a lack of validity.

Can we change our unconscious bias? ›

Because unconscious biases are based on a lifetime of experiences, changing them may take time. Even if you continue to have knee-jerk responses, you don't have to follow those instincts. Whenever it's possible, take the time to consider how you're reacting to a person or situation.

How do you eliminate bias in research? ›

How to avoid researcher bias
  1. Create a thorough research plan. ...
  2. Evaluate your hypothesis. ...
  3. Ask general questions before specifying. ...
  4. Place topics into separate categories. ...
  5. Summarize answers using the original context. ...
  6. Show responders the results. ...
  7. Share analytical duties with the team. ...
  8. Review research with outside peers.
Feb 3, 2023

How can you avoid assessment bias? ›

One of the best ways to guard against confirmation bias is to grade “blind,” or to block the names of the students you are grading until after you've assessed their work.

What are 4 steps to overcome unconscious bias? ›

To overcome unconscious bias we must become aware of its presence, reflect on the nature of prejudice, determine how it affects our ideas and then commit ourselves to implementing practical strategies to counteract bias through behavioral change.

Why is it important to eliminate biases? ›

Without being aware of it, we all have biases that affect how we view the world. Such biases can potentially cause us to make decisions that are neither wise nor fair.

Is it true that everybody has unconscious biases? ›

Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one's tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. Unconscious bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and often incompatible with one's conscious values.


1. How To Overcome Unconscious Bias
(Media Partners)
2. When Implicit Bias Becomes Explicit | Megan Fuciarelli | TEDxLivoniaCCLibrary
(TEDx Talks)
3. Unintentional Still Hurts: Overcoming Unconscious Bias
(Media Partners)
4. Implicit Bias | Concepts Unwrapped
(McCombs School of Business)
5. Dr. Aaron Reid discusses how to overcome implicit biases.
(Sentient Decision Science)
6. Unconscious Bias - does it impact your decisions?


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