Unconscious Bias – Definition & Examples in a Diverse Workplace

What is Unconscious Bias? How will bias impact us in the workplace? List of Top Unconscious Bias training, books, workshop in the workplace.

Have you ever heard the saying that we are all prejudiced towards something? It’s an unsettling thought to think about, especially if you’re someone who is an advocate of equality. However, psychologists have stated that prejudice is something we have in all of us.

From a psychology standpoint, it’s not an entirely bad thing. Prejudice has helped humankind survive during the primordial time because we needed to be quick-thinking about what dangers to avoid. We had to make quick decisions, and we made this decision based on what was most obvious to us. Our unconscious bias is essential and necessary because it could be life-saving.

In modern times, prejudice can be a dangerous thing because we assume something and generalize without taking the time to learn or understand. Even though prejudice is somehow wired into our psyche, it doesn’t mean we have to listen to it all the time.

What is unconscious bias?

Bias is a form of prejudice that favors or is against a something, a person, or a group. This prejudice against these factors is usually unfair when they’re compared to one another. Bias can exist in an individual, in a group, or in an institution.

There are two types of bias i.e. conscious bias or unconscious bias. These biases can happen towards anything, not just race or ethnicity, though these two are the most well-documented. Bias may exist towards gender, physical disabilities, weight, sexual orientation, religion, and various other characteristics.

Unconscious bias happens outside our conscious awareness. This bias is typically a learned stereotype that’s automatic and mostly unintentional. Unconscious bias can be so systemically ingrained that it can alter our behavior and how we interact with the people around us.

Many studies believe that unconscious bias happens automatically as our brain makes quick decisions based on its past experiences.

Often, unconscious bias results in negative consequences. People have been penalized and their benefits are taken away due to unconscious bias.

Even though we have biases wired into us, unconscious bias is usually more directed towards minority groups. The factors influencing this unconscious bias are typically focused on social class, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender, and nationality.

Types of Unconscious Bias

There several types of unconscious bias. Since these biases are unconscious and happen automatically outside our consciousness, we may not be aware that we’re committing it. However, we can eliminate these biases when we’re aware of the types.

Affinity bias

This is a tendency to like someone similar to us in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, or nationality.

Attribution bias

This happens when we attribute certain notions to a person because of our prior interactions with and observations of another person of the same gender, race, or sexual orientation, etc.

Ageism

We make assumptions and commit bias based on a person’s age. While age is not a measure of someone’s intelligence or maturity, we unconsciously judge them based on this.

Confirmation bias

This inclination happens when we want something or someone to confirm our bias towards them.

Conformity bias

This is also known as peer pressure. We want to conform to the people or things around us even though they contradict our personal beliefs and principles.

The Halo Effect

This happens when we unconsciously put someone on a pedestal just because there’s something about them we find impressive.

The Horns Effect

The opposite of the Halo Effect. We unconsciously dislike everything about someone because they have some negative characteristics we don’t like.

Contrast bias

You compare one or several things you come in contact with to another similar thing, which can happen simultaneously or consecutively.

Gender Bias

This common Gender bias happens when one gender is favored over another because of stereotypes or based on your previous experience.

Name bias

You make an unconscious judgment based on a person’s name, especially the ones that are of foreign origins.

Beauty bias

Another common bias where we unconsciously assume attractive people are more competent, qualified, and successful.

Unconscious bias examples

Unconscious bias can happen in the everyday situation regardless of where we are. We don’t just make unconscious bias when something or someone is right in front of us. We can even commit it by hearing about something or someone over the radio or watch it on television.

We assume someone is naturally incompetent at something just because we know where they’re from or which neighborhood they grew up in. We believe someone will behave in a certain way because of how we saw some people of the same race as him or her behave.

As you can see, unconscious bias can manifest in many ways and in countless situations. It’s up to us to identify it so we realize we’re biased towards someone or something.

Unconscious bias in the workplace

One of the most common situations where unconscious bias usually happens is in the workplace. Many people have lost opportunities to excel simply because they were the victims of unconscious bias.

As professionals, we need to be constantly aware of potential biases so we’re not prejudiced towards anyone just because they’re different from us. Employers and interviewers need to be objective and evaluate someone based on their merits and skillsets.

Unconscious Bias and Sterotypes

Even though you feel that stereotypes are correct in many cases based on your personal experience, it’s highly unprofessional to bring these stereotypes into the workplace. Extending your own prejudice towards others who are deserving and competent is not a measure of their character but yours.

Since unconscious bias is a learned stereotype that stems from your experiences and background, it can take some time for us to challenge it. We need to be able to identify it and combat it so that we’re able to give everyone the opportunity they deserve.

Even if when someone confirms the stereotype, it still doesn’t mean everyone who is the same as him or her is going to be the same. We need to understand that people behave the way they do because of their flaws or weaknesses, not because of their race, gender, or nationality.

Unconscious Bias Training

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Unconscious bias workshop

Conclusion

Prejudice may be hardwired into us as part of our survival instinct, but we need to be the bigger person and not let it cloud or run our judgment. We don’t like it when someone judges us just because of how we look or because we have an unfamiliar name. So, we also need to stop doing the same to others.

What is Unconscious Bias in simple words?

Unconscious bias happens outside our conscious awareness. This bias is typically a learned stereotype that’s automatic and mostly unintentional. More on Unconscious Bias here

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About the author

Jess Man

Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief and Senior Diversity Advisor at Diversity Social. Jessica has over 10 years of working with and advising employers to be more diverse and create an inclusive working environment.
Jessica's experience spans private and non-profit sectors in multiple industries.
Jessica's expertise experience is beyond Diversity & Inclusion, she is also a certified professional IT recruiter in Data & Analytics, Database administration, Artificial Intelligence area.