Implicit Bias

Video: Implicit Bias and Stereotypes in Science

Biases start early. In one famous study, when children are asked to draw a scientist, about half of kindergarteners will draw a male scientist and half will draw a female scientist. By third grade, about 75 percent will draw a male scientist. And just about everyone is prone to biases, whether you’re male or female, white or non-white, scientist or not.

Hear more about how these biases manifest in the workplace and what you might be able to do about them. In this video from 2016, Dr. Caroline Simard, Managing Director at Stanford’s VMWare Women's Leadership Innovation Lab, discusses implicit bias and stereotypes in science.

What is implicit bias?*

Bias is a prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another usually in a way that’s considered to be unfair. Biases may be held by an individual, group, or institution and can have negative or positive consequences.

There are types of biases

It is important to note that biases, conscious or unconscious, are not limited to ethnicity and race. Though racial bias and discrimination are well documented, biases may exist toward any social group. One’s age, gender, gender identity physical abilities, religion, sexual orientation, weight, and many other characteristics are subject to bias.

Implicit biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.

Implicit bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and often incompatible with one’s conscious values. Certain scenarios can activate unconscious attitudes and beliefs. For example, biases may be more prevalent when multi-tasking or working under time pressure.

*Thank you to UCSF for the implicit bias resources listed here. Citations can be found here.

What is the science on implicit bias?

Over the last three decades, our understanding of implicit bias has evolved. The nature of implicit bias is well understood, and an instrument (Implicit Association Test or IAT) to assess implicit bias has been developed and rigorously tested.

Here’s what we know:

A substantial amount of research has been published demonstrating impact of implicit bias in various domains including the criminal justice system, education, and health/health care (Kirwan Institute, 2014). Bias may have an impact on: hiring, and mentoring and may contribute to healthcare disparities.

For example:

How can I assess implicit bias?

For many years, scientists have been working on instruments to assess unconscious bias (also know as implicit associations). Of the various tools that are available, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) is one of the most popular and well-studied. The IAT was developed as part of a project to detect unconscious bias based on several factors including race, gender, sexual orientation and national origin. It was developed as part of Project Implicit, which blends basic research and educational outreach in a virtual laboratory that allows users to exam one’s own hidden biases and understand stereotypes that exist below one’s conscious awareness. Project Implicit comprises a network of laboratories, technicians, and research scientists at Harvard University, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia.

How does the IAT work?

The IAT measures the relative strength of associations between pairs of concepts. It is designed as a sorting task in which individuals are asked to sort images or words that appear on a computer screen into one of two categories. The basic premise is that when two concepts are highly correlated, people are able to pair those concepts more quickly than two concepts that are no well associated. The IAT is relatively resistant to social desirability concern, and the reliability and validity have been rigorously tested.

How is the IAT used?

The IAT is powerful instrument, which has been used to explore the impact of implicit bias on behavior. Here are some examples highlighting the use of the IAT in healthcare.

How can I address implicit bias?

Implicit biases are not permanent. In fact, they are malleable and steps can be taken to limit their impact on our thoughts and behaviors (Dasgupta, 2013).

Individual strategies to address implicit bias include:

UC Managing Implicit Bias Training Series

The UC Managing Implicit Bias Series is a six-course online training series designed to increase awareness of implicit bias and reduce its impact in the workplace. The series reinforces our IDEA values that enable the Lab and UC to attract and retain a top talent workforce, and it further supports our commitment to developing effective leaders and managers of people.

Employees may complete individual courses, or the entire series. Those who complete all six online courses will receive the UC Systemwide Managing Implicit Bias Certificate. The series contains six self-paced, online interactive courses. Each course is 15-20 minutes in length.

The series is also a core requirement to the UC Systemwide People Management Series and Certificate. As a People Manager, it is especially important to be aware of implicit bias and how it impacts the way we work and interact with others.

Additional Trainings

Click HERE to view additional trainings on implicit bias