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MLK Day: Implicit Bias

What is Implicit Bias?

From the Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity's page, "Understanding Implicit Bias": 

Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  

Key Characteristics:

  • Implicit biases are pervasive.  Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges.
  • Implicit and explicit biases are related but distinct mental constructs.  They are not mutually exclusive and may even reinforce each other.
  • The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse.
  • We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own ingroup, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our ingroup.
  • Implicit biases are malleable.  Our brains are incredibly complex, and the implicit associations that we have formed can be gradually unlearned through a variety of debiasing techniques.

From Look Different:

Common Types of Implicit Bias (note: this list is not exhaustive)

Recommended Reading

TED Talks on Implicit Bias

American Denial: The Truth is Deeper Than Black and White

american denial cover

In 1938, Swedish researcher and Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal plunges into America's Jim Crow South. His resulting study, An American dilemma (1944), poses a profoundly unsettling question: How can a people devoted to the American creed of equality, justice and opportunity for all continue to erect obstacles to those ends based on race? Through Myrdal's story and contemporary racial dynamics, the film explores how denial, cognitive dissonance, and implicit bias persist and shape all of our lives

Request it through interlibrary loan here 

The Daily Show, Police Bias Training

How to Overcome our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them

Understanding Unconscious Bias by the Royal Society

Understanding Your Own Implicit Bias

The first step is to better understand your own biases. Take an Implicit Association Test:

You've learned that you have biases. Now what?

1) Admit that you have biases. Doing so will enable you to improve. 

2) Interrogate your biases

3) Create an action plan

Creating an Action Plan

Reflecting on your results can be helpful. What is your reaction to your results?
I am not sure how to process my biases.: 0 votes (0%)
I am embarrassed by my biases and I'm not sure what the next step should be.: 1 votes (100%)
I feel like this test must be incorrect. I don't have biases.: 0 votes (0%)
I recognize my biases and I want to take action.: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 1


It’s very difficult to eliminate implicit bias. At the same time, you have to take action to make change. Here are some ideas for taking action:

  • Next time I'm in a position of power (on a search committee, doing group work, etc.), I will be more intentional about my biases before making a decision
  • I will be more intentional about where I live and socialize. I will try to interact with other groups to combat my own biases.
  • I will recognize the importance of institutions and initiatives that attempt to combat implicit bias. One example might be affirmative action. 
  • I will try to confront my implicit biases by learning more about different cultures, religions, races, sexualities, genders, and abilities. 
Would you like to get together with other people in the Davidson community to share your reflections and compose an action plan?
Yes and I would like a staff member to moderate: 0 votes (0%)
Yes and I would like a student to moderate: 0 votes (0%)
No, I'd like to keep my reflection to myself: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
When would be a good time to reflect?
MLK Week: Jan. 16-20: 0 votes (0%)
Week 2: Jan. 23-27: 0 votes (0%)
Week 3: Jan. 30- Feb. 3: 0 votes (0%)
Week 4: Feb. 6-10: 1 votes (100%)
Total Votes: 1

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