Re-sharing - a post I wrote back in June 2013 but think it needs to be addressed again!
There has been a lot of discussion in the media about racism, sexism, homophobia, equality… (There is no need to identify these stories because they could be any story; even your own story of being oppressed, discriminated against, of judged). I will address these issues because they are vital to making the world a better place; so we can do better now that we will know better! To do this we must first understand implicit bias and confirmation bias. EVERYONE makes judgments based on both of these biases. They are rooted in our upbringing and may be so deep you are not aware they exist. But do not think that you are not prejudice or bias because we all are; it’s human nature.
Implicit bias is the unconscious attitudes and beliefs that can be expressed overtly or covertly. These implicit biases develop early in our lives and can occur even if we believe we have no biases toward others. Implicit bias can be measured (Harvard has done some great research in this area). These biases are not only about race but also about: age, disabilities, religion, gender, and so on.
Watch this video of Alan Alda taking this test and explain implicit bias.
Here’s the link to check your own implicit bias: Implicit Bias Test
People do not base their decisions and opinions on fact but instead on confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the process of paying attention to information about a person/topic/issue that confirms (validates) your belief/opinion and ignoring, minimizing, or rationalizing the information that does not support your belief/opinion. The more emotionally charged an issue or topic is the more this bias occurs. The recent political race is a perfect example of confirmation bias. If a person liked one presidential candidate then most of the things that candidate said or did was spun in a positive light. The other candidate could have done or said the exact same things but these would have been seen in a negative light.
Here’s a quick video that explains confirmation bias:
Our brains automatically engage in low-effort information processing which consists of stereotyping and judgments (implicit bias). We then look for information that validates these beliefs and opinions while we ignore or minimize information that disproves these beliefs and opinions (confirmation bias). This happens with EVERYONE!
This can change only if we do a few things: First, we need to acknowledge and accept that we have biases. We need to be openly admit these to ourselves. Second, we need to willingly look at all the evidence and use our OWN critical thinking skills. Decisions need to be made based on evidence (not only the evidence you want to look at - that's confirmation bias). This is not easy because your biases will get in the way. We expect others to be emphatic to understand us, our points of view, and accept our values and beliefs but we often don’t practice empathy to others.
Remember that empathy is NOT feeling what another person feels it is UNDERSTANDING the other person’s emotions, experiences, situations… It does not mean that you have to agree with the person but that you understand why they believe what they believe and feel what they feel. When you have empathy you don’t try to change another person’s belief to your belief. You don’t judge others because empathy is the antidote to bias, bigotry, and bullying!
When people become aware (conscious) of the potential for prejudice, they often attempt to correct for it and are less likely to exhibit bias behaviors (overt and covert). Nevertheless, just understanding implicit bias and confirmation bias is not enough. Actions, with the intent to do better, must occur on a daily basis.
Please watch the final video of Oprah speaking about Maya Angelou words “when you know better, you do better.” (If you have not watched any of the other videos than please watch this one.)