What is “implicit bias?” An implicit bias is an unconscious association that causes us to have feeling and attitudes about people based on things like race, age, gender, appearance, and ethnicity. Implicit biases can be favorable or unfavorable, and most importantly, they exist without any awareness or intent. These biases often develop throughout a lifetime, starting at a young age, and continuing to develop through relationships with our families, social circles, media exposure, and other life experiences.
First and foremost, does having implicit biases make you a bad person? Absolutely not! While we may not realize it (and we may not want to acknowledge it), virtually all of us have at least some implicit biases, having either preferences or subconscious negative views for people based on certain characteristics. However, if these implicit biases go unacknowledged, they can lead to unintentional unfair or unequal treatment of other individuals. So, what can we do? The first step is to try and unravel what unconscious biases we may have. This can be a particularly uncomfortable experience, but remember, growth in anything is virtually impossible if you remain in your comfort zone! One possible option to look into our own implicit biases is through Project Implicit (implicit.harvard.edu), an online project by Harvard University. From there, we can double check that any decisions we make and views we develop are based on objective measurements and ensure that our subconscious biases are not guiding our evaluation of others. It’s important that we not allow our personal biases to get in the way of how we treat our co-workers, clients, or our communities!