We’ve encountered, and contended with, implicit bias in our work as trial consultants. Some clients are curious as to how implicit bias works and how we can counteract it. In our other posts, we cover practical and academic aspects of implicit bias including how biases impact bench trials, jury trials, and arbitration. In the following post, we cover elements of implicit bias and some of the remedies that we’ve employed to counter biases that affect our cases.
Implicit memory is the foundation for implicit bias. We like to think of it as “retaining without remembering”. We retain the information that we’ve encountered in the past and access that retention without knowing the source of the past information.
The Consequence of Memory
Authors of the IAT, Greenwald and Banaji, define implicit bias as, “An existing attitude projected onto a novel object.” For the sake of our common understanding, things like stereotypes, prejudices, and attitudes can all be considered forms of implicit bias.
Many understand that outcomes of implicit bias can include racism, sexism, homophobia, and may contribute to a slew of microaggressions.
So, we ask ourselves, “If it’s so bad, why does it happen? Why does it exist?” Well, our brains are efficient, but they’re not perfect. Implicit bias exists because implicit memory helps us think more efficiently, by using past information to make judgments in the present, without some complicated recall of specific details or the legitimacy of the origin of the information. It just makes it easier on us, at least in terms of cognitive processing.
Let’s take a look at the graphic above to see how implicit bias fits into the broader process, leading to biased outcomes. First, implicit memory is often based on culture and history. Second, from that history, we retain certain assumptions. Third, those assumptions lead us to make biased evaluations that are based on intuition and stereotypes. Finally, this leads us to make biased decisions which often result in biased behavior.
Implicit vs. Explicit
We can think of the differences between implicit and explicit biases as the following: We’re aware of the influence of our explicit biases and less aware of the influence of our implicit biases. Both types of biases can affect our judgements and treatment of people of different groups.
You might ask yourself, “What can I do to disrupt these automatic processes and make better, unbiased decisions?” The graphic below shows how we conceptualize “disrupting” the process of implicit bias.
Earlier, we talked about implicit memory and how that can contribute to biased outcomes. One of the ways we can disrupt this process is by asking ourselves or others to consider whether or not bias is what’s influencing our judgments. We disrupt this process with the hope of getting balanced outcomes.
Read our academic review of implicit biases and specific examples that we’ve encountered in our work.
TL;DR: Acknowledging that you have biases is the best way to stop you from acting on them.