The birth of implicit bias — when does it start and how do we stop it?

After thinking more about implicit bias, I came upon this article:

https://www.salon.com/2017/10/15/how-to-combat-racial-bias-start-in-childhood_partner/

The article discusses how racial bias, in particular, begins really young in life. So, by the time we reach adulthood, our biases are hard-wired and pretty set in our brains, making them difficult to disintegrate. Implicit bias, as opposed to explicit bias, appears (to me at least) to be more challenging to eliminate, as we often don’t even know that we are being biased.

The implicit bias tests we took last week clearly demonstrate this.  I like to think of myself as a relatively unbiased person who is very open and accepting of everyone; however, the tests showed that I still have some bias (based on the times it took me to complete the tasks when descriptions of gender, etc are switched). Completing these tests were illuminating – they made me think about how little we know even about ourselves sometimes.

Image result for implicit bias

I found this article especially intriguing, as it discusses how even 9 month old babies showed bias by looking longer at the faces that match the babies’ own race when exposed to “happy” music. This suggests to me that some of our bias may not be learned but innate. However, I wonder about children who are adopted and raised by parents of a different race. Do these children show preference for their own race or for the race of their parents? What about children of bi-racial parents? Which parent would they “prefer?” To me, these are all fascinating questions, and I would love to learn more.

The article also discussed how working in 20 minute sessions with five year olds, implicit racial bias can be eliminated (for a short period of time). To do this, children learn to identify individuals within a given race. This is really interesting as well – instead of looking at a large group of people defined by the color of their skin, look at the individual. It makes sense to me that thinking about an individual rather than a group can help eliminate bias. I personally have seen this in my own life. For example, someone I knew once said “all Jewish girls are JAPS – Jewish American Princesses.” Then, after realizing what he said, he quickly added “except for you, Erin.” This guy knowing me as an individual within a minority group showed him that the stereotype doesn’t hold true for everyone. Unfortunately, knowing me was not enough to stop the microaggression altogether.

Further understanding implicit biases and how they affect us in our day-to-day lives and in our professional lives are both imperative to creating a more welcoming and accepting world.

One Reply to “The birth of implicit bias — when does it start and how do we stop it?”

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I have mixed feelings about implicit bias testing, as there is a lot of controversy about these sorts of tests in my field. These tests show strength of association and haven’t been linked to explicit measures of bias. It is interesting to think about how children’s environment can shape these associations that we make though, and I strongly feel that this is a topic we should explore further.

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