Unconscious Bias Mitigation
Unconscious Bias Mitigation
Organizational Behaviorists have been doing research on bias for years. And we know that many of our decisions are subject to a range of biases. Most of the research into bias examined cognitive biases that impair our ability to evaluate information objectively, make good judgments, and wise decisions. All of these biases operated below conscious awareness for most people, until they learn to recognize and correct for them.
Dr. Robin’s Diversity, Inclusion and Cultural Competence programs have always addressed bias — unconscious and conscious, unintentional and intentional, visible and invisible, macro and micro. Many organizations are now asking specifically for Anti-Bias programs. In more recent years as we’ve struggled with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, researchers have reframed a lot of the conversation about people-related bias (including prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping) as an issue of implicit or unintentional bias. Project Implicit, which grew out of research at a number of major universities, has been a key repository of information about people-related Blind Spots.
Bias is a predisposition to see events, people or items in a positive or negative way — can be conscious or unconscious. Affective bias — bias related to how we feel about other people — was more challenging to research and address because the process was inherently subjective. Affective-people-based bias integrates with our self-concept and connects to historic structural inequities that make that topic more charged. And for many people, their people-oriented biases are social blind-spots. More recent research is exploring those biases under the topic Implicit or Unconscious Bias.
If you’re not familiar with how to recognize bias, how to pause before acting on bias, how to interrupt bias, or your personal biases and triggers — a place to start would be to read either Blind Spot by Banaji and Greenwald or Biased by Eberhardt and take 2 — 3 Implicit Association Tests (IAT) HERE to increase your self-awareness. The IAT gives immediate results and are confidential. Both books also give suggestions for how to manage bias at work. See below for a partial list of IATs.
Bias cannot be eliminated in decision-making. Bias can be mitigated with awareness that we have bias, learning our likely bias triggers, information about the content of our biases, motivation to pause before acting on bias, training in how to mitigate the bias so that actions / decisions are not adversely impacted by bias.
The goals of unconscious bias mitigation programs are to:
- Recognize biases,
- Know which ones we have, and
- Know when a bias has been triggered so bias does not hijack our actions and become destructive.
Typical Program | Designed by Dr. Johnson
Pre-Work (Option 1) — The Implicit Association Test (IAT)
If participants do not do pre-work, Dr. Robin can run a version of the IAT within a program and still make some of the key points about the value of these reaction-time experiments for helping us become more conscious of our biases. The tests take about 10 minutes each and in many cases provide evidence of bias. Some people are surprised and upset to discover they have some bias against groups to which they belong. So, this option comes with cautions.
There are IATs for Gender-Career, Weapons, Asian, Arab-Muslim, Sexuality, Gender-Science, Race, Presidents, Disability, Skin-tone, Religion, Native American, Weight and Age. Usually participants will choose at least two to take. Participants are asked to list which ones they took, reflect on why they chose those IATs, what their results said, their reaction to their results, and what experiences or exposures from their lives might have contributed to those results. Before participants share any of their information with each other, Dr. Robin sets up a psychologically-safe environment by establishing some communication ground-rules / norms, sharing her results and sharing the research findings.
Pre-Work (Option 2) — The Birkman Method
This assessment actually gives usual behavior and need scores for nine relational components. It is an instrument with strong psychometric properties. The scores on the components, when compared with millions of people who’ve taken the Birkman, can give us some insight into individual responses within social desirability parameters, behavioral bias, and expectation bias for those nine components. Click HERE for the list of components. Many organizations prefer exploring bias using the Birkman Method because the relational components allow people to acknowledge their biases without a lot of the emotional charge associated with discussing some of the inter-group dynamics of the IATs.
- Define Bias | Attitudinal bias
- Discuss Results of IAT and/or Birkman | Research findings, dyads share
- Connect Bias and Decision-Making Research | Implications for your organization?
- Types of Bias (Discussion) | With emphasis on types of micro-aggressions
- Consequences of Bias | Reversal tool videos; what if left unaddressed? Prejudiced?
- Manage Bias | Skills and techniques (when, where, how, why)
- Skill Practice | Role plays / mini-cases / videos
Dr. Robin has worked with individuals through one-on-one coaching, and she has designed tailored programs for teams, and organizations to mitigate bias. She is also writing a workbook on Unconscious Bias Mitigation. In the meantime, she addresses Unconscious Bias in her Inclusive Leader workbook HERE.
Dr. Robin also partners with SunShower Learning and their Defeating Unconscious Bias video program HERE.
Unconscious Bias Mitigation materials are available in the following formats.
You can find more information about each in the tabs below.