Your implicit bias training probably won't work, but these 2 strategies will

One of the social psychologists to further research and identification of implicit bias sees most training to counter these hidden attitudes as "window dressing" that helps an organization look good internally and externally. The two strategies that really can counter implicit bias, he says, are not used nearly enough. 

Implicit bias refers to hidden attitudes that influence the way people act toward one another, which often results in unintended discrimination. Knowable Magazine caught up with Anthony Greenwald, PhD, a social psychologist, professor of psychology at University of Washington, and creator of the implicit association test.

Dr. Greenwald says mitigating implicit bias is much harder to do than scientists expected. Certain measures employers and organizations take will not help, such as simply encouraging people to have a strong intention not to allow themselves to be biased or pausing before making decisions. “All these may seem reasonable, but there's no empirical demonstration that they work."

Instead, Dr. Greenwald endorses the following two actions to make organizational progress in countering implicit bias: 

1. Data collection. "I think that a lot can be achieved just by collecting data to document disparities that are occurring as a result of bias," says Dr. Greenwald. He uses the example of police in New York City. Once data on the traffic stops of black and white pedestrians and drivers was analyzed in the past, disparities were evident. Data puts officials and leaders in a position to target implicit bias mitigation efforts and measure their effects. "Once you know where the problem is that has to be solved, it's up to the administrators to figure out ways to understand why and how this is happening."

2. Discretion elimination. The next step is discretion elimination, which is applied when people make decisions that involve subjective judgments about a person, such as employers deciding on a promotion or physicians deciding on a patient's treatment.  "When those decisions are made with discretion, they are likely to result in unintended disparities. But when those decisions are made based on predetermined, objective criteria that are rigorously applied, they are much less likely to produce disparities," says Dr. Greenwald. 

One example of discretion elimination is when major U.S. symphony orchestras began holding blind auditions in the 1970s. They initially auditioned people behind screens because musicians thought that the visible process was biased in favor of graduates of elite schools. What they didn’t expect was how blind auditions would affect women’s auditions. The share of women hired as instrumentalists in major symphony orchestras grew from around 10 to 20 percent before 1970 to about 40 percent. 

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