A deep glance into Implicit bias and Microaggressions

What’s implicit bias?

Implicit biases are attitudes or prejudices that influence our behaviors, decisions, and understanding unknowingly. Implicit biases can be positive (a liking for something or someone) or negative (a dislike for something or someone) (an aversion to or fear of something or someone). Implicit biases vary from recognized prejudices, which people may choose to hide for social or political reasons. Indeed, unconscious biases frequently contradict a person’s verbal and/or professed convictions. Implicit biases develop during a lifetime as a result of direct and indirect signals. The media has a significant impact on this process of development.

Implicit biases are all around us: we all have them. Implicit biases can be changed, but research shows that it requires time, purpose, and training.

What are Microaggressions? 

Microaggressions are slights delivered verbally, behaviorally, or in the environment as a result of an individual’s unconscious bias. They are generally unintended or automatic, and they happen on a regular basis. Microaggressions are little gestures that convey aggressive, insulting, or unfavorable feelings. Microaggressions are used to maintain a White Supremacy Culture viewpoint. A stereotype is an oversimplified idea about a specific type of person or group that is frequently held. It occurs when someone brings people together based on their shared interests.

What research says,

Implicit bias research has helped to expose some of the ways that implicit bias affects marginalized persons and communities. The papers mentioned below are merely a small subset of the larger body of research on this topic, and they only cover studies on race. Various studies have found that implicit prejudices operate along other lines of marginalization, such as gender and disability.

Experiments have repeatedly demonstrated that Black and Latinx job applicants are much less likely to be contacted than white applicants with similar resumes (e.g. Pager, Bonikowski, & Western, 2009). Implicit biases can have a variety of effects on our relationships and interactions with one another, some of which are outlined in the study findings mentioned above. Microaggressions are subtle verbal or nonverbal insults or derogatory signals expressed toward a marginalized person, frequently by someone who is well-intentioned but ignorant of the impact their words or actions have on the target.

Microaggressions can target any part of a marginalized person’s identity (for example, sexuality, religion, or gender). Individual microaggressions may not be disastrous to the individual experiencing them, but their cumulative consequences can be significant over time. Microaggressions are often unintentional — acts committed with little cognitive understanding of their implications and consequences. Instead, it is the gradual accumulation of these experiences from childhood and across a lifetime that creates a marginalized experience, making explanation and conversation with someone who does not share this identity extremely challenging. Social others are micro aggressed on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Biases, both implicit and explicit, are related but separate mental entities. They are not mutually exclusive and may possibly strengthen one another. We normally have unconscious biases that support our own in-group, but research has revealed that we may also have hidden biases against our own in-group. Implicit prejudices can be shaped. Our brains are extremely sophisticated, and the implicit connections we’ve developed may be progressively unlearned through a number of debiasing procedures. 

What Is the Frequency of Implicit Biases?

More than 20 million people have completed the Implicit Association Test (IAT), an online evaluation available on the Project Implicit website, since 1998. (implicit.harvard.edu). 

Despite most people’s self-proclaimed status of being decent people with good intentions, facts clearly show that many people have unconscious prejudices toward members of specific groups. For example, more than 80% of participants who took the age prejudice IAT demonstrated a negative implicit bias against the elderly. Furthermore, almost 75% of whites and Asians displayed an unconscious prejudice in favor of whites as compared to African Americans.

How Can Unconscious Bias Be Addressed?

According to psychologists, our life experiences form our unconscious biases. Implicit biases are formed as a result of our interactions with the culture and community in which we live. We are exposed to visuals and ideological viewpoints that form our vantage point from an early age. According to Howard Ross, an expert on unconscious bias, “Ultimately, we assume our actions are compatible with our conscious convictions, but in reality, our unconscious is controlling the show” (Everyday Bias, 2014).

Critical reflection can be used to confront unconscious prejudice. This begins with an introspective look. This is referred to as the process of setting up a mirror in order to view oneself more clearly. The IAT and the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) are two tools that might help you on your journey of self-discovery. Introspection should entail the pursuit of hegemonic assumptions. Hegemony, according to Italian political economist Antonio Gramsci, is a “process through which ideas, institutions, and acts that favor a tiny minority in power are perceived by the majority of people as entirely natural, preordained, and acting for their own advantage” (cited in Stephen Brookfield, Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, Second Edition, 2017).  According to lead researcher Dr. Stephen Brookfield, hegemonic assumptions are assumptions that we believe are in our best interests but ultimately work against us in the long term (Id.). This constrains our imagination in terms of how things are vs this is how things could be. Applying these ideas to diversity and inclusion, the workplace can and should be a place where people can show off their abilities and talents in meaningful and productive ways, free of the barriers that come with prejudices and preconceptions.

How to Deal with Microaggressions

Microaggressions must be addressed in a diverse manner. Leaders can start this process by doing the following:

When microaggressions occur, they should be challenged; the narrative should be reframed by embracing differences as an asset and strength; opportunities for a robust exchange of ideas a foundation for innovation should be created; and professional development training opportunities that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion should be provided.

All of these measures need leaders to take deliberate action in order to create an inclusive and successful workplace. This goes beyond having excellent intentions to establishing the rules, processes, and environment necessary for corporate success. 

A Prompt to Act

Begin this journey of leadership development with others in your professional network or workplace. This article can help you develop your individual and collective leadership platforms by giving a framework for embedding diversity and inclusion across your organization’s structure. Most significantly, it will help you establish a leadership lens through which you can perceive others’ perspectives and promote a collaborative vision.

According to a 2016 research, the most inclusive organizations had 24 percent larger yearly income growth than their peers (which lack a diverse workplace environment).

Companies with more gender diversity outperformed their peers with less diversity by 15%.

Companies that were ethnically diverse outperformed less diverse enterprises by 35%. When racial disparities in the workplace close, employees’ productivity, brand ambassadorship, and retention rates (i.e., intent to remain) increase.

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