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Implicit Bias Resources

Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. Among the key attributes of implicit biases are the following:

  • Implicit or Unconscious: Activated unconsciously and involuntarily, without being explicitly controlled
  • Bias: This bias may skew toward either a favorable or an unfavorable assessment
  • Pervasiveness: Implicit attitudes and stereotypes are robust and pervasive

Regardless of whether implicit associations are positive or negative in nature, everyone is susceptible to implicit biases, including children.* Learn more about implicit bias by exploring the following resources.

*"State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2013," The Kirwan Institute



Implicit Bias Collaborative

An Ohio State group, the Implicit Bias Collaborative, has come together to develop a series of programs on the issue of implicit bias and its impact at the university. This collaborative includes The Women’s Place, Kirwan Institute, Office of Human Resources, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Project CEOS, Gender Initiatives in STEMM, Diversity and Identity Studies Collective at OSU (DISCO) from Arts and Sciences, Wexner Medical Center, University Senate Diversity Committee, OSU Center for Ethics and Human Values, regional campus deans, and others.

The Kirwan Institute's "State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review"

Publication cover graphicPublication cover graphicPublication cover graphicThe Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity has become increasingly mindful of how implicit racial biases shape not only individuals’ cognition and attitudes, but also their behaviors. Indeed, a large body of compelling research has demonstrated how these unconscious mental processes can be manifested across a variety of contexts yielding significant impacts.

With the results in the Zimmerman and Dunn trials, introducing people to implicit bias research seems more important than ever. The Kirwan Institute's senior researcher, Cheryl Staats, supports the field with three editions of State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review. Staats is the lead author of these extensive documents that synthesize a broad range of scholarly literature on how unconscious racial associations influence human decision-making and outcomes. The reviews highlight how cognitive forces that shape individual behavior without our awareness can contribute to societal inequities.

View and/or download the three editions of State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review.

Implicit Association Test (IAT)

The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a key assessment tool for learning about one’s own biases by measuring attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. It was created by Project Implicit, a team of scientists whose research produced new ways of understanding attitudes, stereotypes and other hidden biases that influence perception, judgment, and action. Project Implicit translates their academic research into practical applications, such as the IAT, that can be used for addressing diversity, improving decision-making, and increasing the likelihood that practices are aligned with personal and organizational values.

Anyone can take one or more of the many IATs privately online without joining the research study. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about. For example, you may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science. The simple fact of becoming aware of your own unconscious biases is, in itself, an important de-biasing technique.

Take Project Implicit's online Implicit Association Tests to get a sense of your unconscious biases.

Bias Assessment and Response Team (BART) Website

BART is a resource for anyone (staff, students and faculty) who needs to report an incident of bias or wants to explore and better understand issues, like bias and discrimination, and how to effectively respond. The BART website is a central, online clearinghouse for you to report an incident. It includes many links to campus and community resources, to better equip you with getting help after a bias incident.

Actions You Can Take to Reduce Implicit Bias

>Raise awareness of implicit bias; take IAT tests and encourage others to take them as well
Awareness of implicit bias is a crucial starting point that may prompt individuals to seek out and implement further strategies. In our experience, most people find that becoming aware of their implicit biases helps them avoid those biases in decision making. (We mentioned IAT tests a number of times in this report, but they’re so helpful and accessible, it bears repeating.)

>Seek to identify and consciously acknowledge real group and individual differences
Cultivate greater awareness of and sensitivity to group and individual differences. Attend and offer training seminars, events, and opportunities to share information that acknowledge and promote an appreciation of group differences and multi-cultural viewpoints.

>Routinely check thought processes and decisions for possible bias: Practice mindfulness
Actively engage in more thoughtful, deliberative information processing and be mindful of your decision-making processes. Mindfulness training helps facilitate these efforts. When sufficient effort is exerted to limit the effects of implicit biases on judgment, attempts to consciously control implicit bias can be successful.

>Increase exposure to minority group members and counter-stereotypes
Distribute stories and pictures widely that portray stereotype-busting images: posters, newsletters, annual reports, speaker series, and podcasts are examples of media you can use to distribute this message. Increased contact with counter-stereotypes—specifically, increased exposure to underrepresented group members that contradict the social stereotype—can help individuals “unlearn” the associations that underlie implicit bias.

>Reduce exposure to stereotypes
Identify and discard or change environmental cues such as images and language in any signage, pamphlets, brochures, instructional manuals, background music, or any other verbal or visual communications that trigger stereotype activation and implicit bias.

>Take a first-person perspective of a member of a stereotyped group
Perspective taking increases psychological closeness to “other” groups, which ameliorates automatic group-based evaluations.

>Practice individuation: Obtain and help others obtain specific information about people as individuals rather than as group members
Help prevent stereotypic inferences by encouraging people to evaluate members of a group based on individual, rather than group-based, attributes. Regularly remind yourself and others that majority group members aren’t characterized by the actions of a few, unlike minority group members.

For the sources of these and other ideas, see:

"Strategies to Reduce the Influence of Implicit Bias"

"Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: A prejudice habit-breaking intervention"

The Kirwan Institute’s State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2013 by Cheryl Staats, pages 52-63

Activities to Reduce Implicit Bias

You can use the following “get to know you” activities in your office/unit to help reduce implicit bias. The activities incorporate these actions from the list above: identifying and consciously acknowledging real group and individual differences; increasing exposure to minority group members and counter-stereotypes; and practicing individuation.

> Start staff meetings with a check-in question that each attendee answers. Check-in usually starts with a volunteer and proceeds around the group. If an individual is not ready to speak, the turn is passed and another opportunity is offered after others have spoken. Not only does this help attendees be truly present and participate in the meeting, it’s an effective tool to continuously learn more about others on your team.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask:

  • What’s one new and interesting thing you’ve been thinking about lately?
  • What’s one thing that brings you energy and joy?
  • What’s one thing that you’re really proud of that you’d like to share with the group?
  • What is one interest of yours that others in this group might not know about?
  • What aspect of your job brings you the most satisfaction?
  • What do you like best about ____________ (weekends, vacation, the current season, etc.)?

> Ask participants to bring an item related to their heritage and share its significance. You can change the instructions to be an item from their childhood or something they cherish, etc.

> Spread out a collection of photos and ask participants to choose a photo that reveals information about them, such as a photo that depicts an aspect of their personality, and have them explain why they chose the particular photo.

> Below are examples of ice breaker questions you can use at staff “get to know you” brown bag lunches. (Learn more about how the College of Engineering hosts these lunches in the 2014-2015 Status Report on Women at Ohio State):

  • What three people (dead or alive) would you invite to your dinner party?
  • For Valentine’s day, what would be your perfect day off? (Doesn’t have to be with a partner)
  • What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
  • What’s the best part of your job?
  • What would you do career-wise if you weren’t in your current job?