From Bias to Awareness – Unconscious Bias Talk and Workshop.
Unconscious bias refers to the stereotypes, both negative and positive, that exist in our subconscious minds, and that affect our behaviour.
Theories of bias propose that we simultaneously hold unconscious prejudices and strong pro-equality ideals. Our unconscious bias develops mostly from early conditioning, biased media representations and from our social experiences. As we are repeatedly exposed to stereotypical associations and prejudices from an early age, these become automated in our subconscious mind. Strong social norms and legal restrictions inhibit most outward expression of these prejudices.
The result is a subtle, hidden, and often unconscious negative bias towards particular social groups. Even individuals who truly believe they are non-prejudiced hold unconscious bias. Studies show racism and sexism manifest as prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory behaviour in individuals who expressly endorse egalitarian values, particularly when they are under stress.
The ‘From Bias to Awareness’ talk and workshop highlights where these biases come from by exploring some of the mechanics behind forming prejudicial beliefs. By understanding the origin of the bias and how it is reinforced overtime, the participant can begin to make different conscious choices with increased awareness. It is not enough to simply increase awareness of unconscious bias, while important, practical tools and techniques coupled with awareness has been shown to be most impactful.
Unconscious bias is an example of automatic processing. However, research shows automatic and unconscious mental responses can be overridden with conscious and deliberate effort. A person who is motivated to be unprejudiced, can learn to suppress biased responses over time but also with guidance can re-write original beliefs and programming.
Our unconscious bias training seeks to motivate individuals to override their automatic biased tendencies by confronting individuals who generally hold explicit egalitarian values with evidence of their unconscious biases.
Cognitive dissonance refers to the uncomfortable emotional state experienced when individuals are aware of an inconsistency in their beliefs, attitudes, or behaviours. Research indicates that when egalitarian values are central to an individual’s self-concept, highlighting an inconsistency between the individual’s anti-prejudice values and their biased responses is effective at evoking dissonance. In turn, dissonance motivates the individual to make conscious adjustments to their attitudes (reduction in prejudice) and behaviours (less discrimination) such that they better align with their strongly held values of tolerance and equality