Implicit bias

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An implict bias (or implicit stereotype) refers to the stereotypes that people unconsciously have towards people of different groups, even though they may oppose these prejudices.[1][2][3] People who have this bias may be completely unaware that they have it.[4][5]


There are numerous programs that are designed with the attempt to test (or even remove) implicit bias, such as the test by Project Implicit at Harvard University.[6] These tests try to determine your subconscious biases about people from different religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.[7] There is no scientific consensus that these tests are meaningful.[8] For example, skeptic Michael Shermer, who writes:[9]

First, unconscious states of mind are notoriously difficult to discern and require subtle experimental protocols to elicit. Second, associations between words and categories may simply be measuring familiar cultural or linguistic affiliations — associating "blue" and "sky" faster than "blue" and "doughnuts" does not mean I unconsciously harbor a pastry prejudice. Third, negative words have more emotional salience than positive words, so the IAT may be tapping into the negativity bias instead of prejudice. Fourth, IAT researchers have been unable to produce any interventions that can reduce the alleged prejudicial associations.

Although Shermer also says:

For centuries the arc of the moral universe has been bending toward justice as a result of changing people’s explicit behaviors and beliefs, not on ferreting out implicit prejudicial witches through the spectral evidence of unconscious associations. Although bias and prejudice still exist, they are not remotely as bad as a mere half a century ago, much less half a millennium ago. We ought to acknowledge such progress and put our energies into figuring out what we have been doing right and do more of it.

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