Arts & Sciences

How to Think about “Implicit Bias”

Amidst a controversy, it’s important to remember that implicit bias is real—and it matters

From Scientific American

When is the last time a stereotype popped into your mind? If you are like most people, the authors included, it happens all the time. That doesn’t make you a racist, sexist, or whatever-ist. It just means your brain is working properly, noticing patterns, and making generalizations. But the same thought processes that make people smart can also make them biased. This tendency for stereotype-confirming thoughts to pass spontaneously through our minds is what psychologists call implicit bias. It sets people up to overgeneralize, sometimes leading to discrimination even when people feel they are being fair.

Studies of implicit bias have recently drawn ire from both right and left. For the right, talk of implicit bias is just another instance of progressives seeing injustice under every bush. For the left, implicit bias diverts attention from more damaging instances of explicitbigotry. Debates have become heated, and leapt from scientific journals to the popular press. Along the way, some important points have been lost. We highlight two misunderstandings that anyone who wants to understand implicit bias should know about.

  Read more at Scientific American.