Mahzarin Banaji discussed how can scientists study bias, thoughts, or feelings of which people are unaware? How do such biases shape behavior? What are the social consequences of unconscious thoughts and feelings, such as the stereotype that women are terrible at math or poor people are lazy, that you are not aware you hold and which may be counter to what you think your beliefs are? Our work shows that such implicit biases are pervasive, predict behavior, and are held even by well-meaning people (including the speaker herself!). Demonstrations and hands-on exercises will illustrate unconscious stereotyping, its prevalence, but also its malleability. Implicit biases are learned and therefore can be unlearned. We know they can be modified through new experiences, and this knowledge can allow communities, governments, and organizations to develop strategies for change. Implicit biases have the paradoxical property that they are not amenable to change from simply willing them away and yet are quite malleable in the face of appropriate interventions.

Learning Objectives:
(a) Implicit biases are pervasive; most Americans and most people all over the world show them.
(b) People differ in levels of implicit bias; at least three factors that produce this variation. First, we favor our own. Second, those who come from less-advantaged groups do not show the same level of ingroup bias. Finally, the degree to which our immediate environment allows or disavows bias also influences behavior without our being aware of that influence.
(c) Implicit biases predict behavior. From simple acts of friendliness and inclusion to more consequential acts such as the evaluation of work quality and deservingness, those who show higher implicit biases have been shown to display greater discrimination. One of our own studies showed that doctors who harbor more implicit bias against African Americans (as a group) are also less likely to offer African American patients a cardiac procedure called thrombolysis.
(d) Implicit biases can be changed. Implicit biases are learned and therefore can be unlearned. This knowledge allows organizations to develop strategies for change. Implicit biases have the paradoxical property that they are not amenable to change from simply willing them away and yet they are quite malleable in the face of appropriate interventions.

This talk “The Human Mind and the Social World: Implicit Biases are Learned and can be Unlearned” was given at the conference “Brain Development and Learning 2010 Meeting” in Vancouver. It was an interdisciplinary conference devoted to improving children’s lives by making cutting-edge research in neuroscience, child psychology, & medicine. Further information available on http://www.interprofessional.ubc.ca/bdl.html

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