Yale defines implicit bias is defined as "unconscious attitudes, reactions, stereotypes, and categories that affect behavior and understanding." Implicit biases are rooted deep in our unconscious and are often difficult to fix.
I recently took the Harvard's Implicit Bias Test to identify some of my own implicit biases as they relate to race in healthcare for my "Exploring Health Professions" class. In truth, I was shocked with my own results despite my conscious efforts to be more accommodating of others and their ideas. Within healthcare, implicit biases can affect the health care provider's ability to provide adequate care for a population, particularly those who are underrepresented or come from a low socioeconomic background. The sooner we can address our biases, the sooner we can elevate the level of care that we provide to patients.
One of the greatest concerns voiced in today's workplace is "workplace discrimination," and the root cause of this problem stems from implicit biases. Workplace discrimination is what happens when our implicit biases go unchecked. The majority of the decisions made in the workplace are on a short timescale, leaving us susceptible to resort to the quickest form of decision making which is often heavily influenced by subconscious implicit biases. While fixing implicit biases might seem like an unfamiliar, and relatively new concept for many of us, it's not too different from another one of our automatic responses.
I equate biases with habits and as a result, there are two major steps: address your biases and motivate yourself to change.
The American Association of University of Women (AAUW) lists three effective ways we can fix our implicit biases. In summary:
1. When assessing an individual, focus on concrete facets of their performance as opposed to what your "gut feeling" might be leading you to believe.
2. Think of all the people who violate stereotypes in a dynamic way, and do your best to remember the positive examples. This idea is known as counter-stereotyping and lets these positive thoughts populate your mind the next time you are in a similar situation.
3. Make a commitment to increasing the diversity of the people whom you are around but also focus on the inclusion of those groups of people. Working with people whom you may have implicit biases against will help you individualize and personalize interactions to reduce implicit biases.
The adage, "If I didn't see it, it didn't happen," sadly applies to many of our own implicit biases. The dominant mentality is, "If I don't address implicit biases, I don't have them," and this ignorance is the root of many of our societal problems. In our increasingly diverse and open-minded society, there simply isn't enough room for us to harbor implicit biases. Currently, the landscape on research regarding how implicit biases may be affecting sectors of society is developing, but until it has crystallized, our best bet is to individually work on reducing our implicit biases.