Outgrow Your Implicit Bias

Outgrow Your Implicit Bias
Photo by Aron Visuals / Unsplash

I recently found myself in a place of self reflection about some of the biases I never knew I had. While chatting with a friend a few weeks back, I subconsciously asked a question that I would later regret. Fortunate enough for me, my friend was mature enough to have the full the conversation (even in her disappointment) with the intention of understanding why I would ask such a question, yet she expected me to know her well enough. What in the least of basics made you come to the assumption that something is amiss here? I want to know what exactly people use to measure or to identify or award a conclusion. It was this question and statement that made me reflect on my question to her and why I had asked. I realized it was because there had been a time shortly before our conversation where I was mostly thinking about the subject which slowly built up to my already existing implicit bias. My mind had formed a perception based on what I fed it and constantly thought about. What are you feeding your mind?

The way you think about yourself turns into your reality. If you draw inaccurate conclusions about who you are and what you’re capable of doing, you’ll limit your potential

Implicit Bias

Implicit bias affects how we live and view others. The reality is, our mindset, practices, and beliefs are formed by our background and the environment we grow up in. You will be shocked to find that your perspective on nearly everything in life is slightly or largely flawed. Of course, we are different, and we think and behave different, this fact is unchanging, but do you know why you think or behave the way you do towards different aspects of life?

Since many of our thoughts, beliefs and ideologies are formed by the environment we grew up in, we owe it to ourselves (and those around us) to outgrow our biases, even the implicit ones. This is one of the reasons as to why exposure and education are important. Unfortunately, especially in the African context, the education system is flawed and largely responsible for most biases, both explicit and implicit. The struggle to outgrow the explicit biases formed by our education system is an ongoing one. That is definitely a conversation for another day.

Implicit bias being the prejudices and beliefs we possess but aren’t aware of, it takes more for us to discover what our implicit biases are. It therefore takes a lot of intentionality and self-reflection to first; discover and then work towards outgrowing them. When you become consciously aware of the prejudices and beliefs you possess, these become explicit, and it is easier to outgrow them.

The Test

The biggest struggle with outgrowing implicit bias is in discovering and accepting our prejudices and beliefs. For over 20 years, millions of people have used Project Implicit to discover potential prejudices that lurk beneath their awareness. Through Project Implicit, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about. For example, you may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science.

I took this Implicit Bias Race Test twice and below are my result. Even when I tried to consciously not show bias (second test), it was beyond my control. And that is the thing with implicit bias. The first result may be different from the second, but the mere fact that there is detection of preference for one group over the other, is a manifestation of implicit bias.

First Result of My Implicit Bias Race Test.

Screenshot of my Test 1 results

Second result of My Implicit Bias Race Test

Screenshot of my Test 2 results

You can take the same test to discover what your implicit biases on race are. You can also take other tests ranging from Sexuality, Religion, Age, Weight, among others. Some of the research based on Project Implicit reveals that; 75% of people who have taken the IAT have correlated men more strongly with work roles and women more strongly with family positions, and that doctors are just as biased against obesity as is the general public. In a historic 2015 decision involving fair housing, the US Supreme Court referenced implicit bias in a ruling allowing federal action against housing policies that have a disparate impact as well as being overtly discriminating. Here are some FAQs to give you a better understanding of how the Implicit Association Test (IAT) works.

Challenge Your Conclusions

There are several ways to outgrow your implicit bias and Amy Morin shares one that I found intriguing. In this article, Amy suggests that challenging our conclusions is very important, and she even shares 2 ways this can be done;

Look for evidence to the contraryTake note of any times when your beliefs weren’t reinforced. Acknowledging exceptions to the rule will remind you that your belief isn’t always true.

Challenge your beliefsPerform behavioural experiments that test how true your beliefs really are. If you think you’re not good enough, do something that helps you to feel worthy. If you’ve labelled yourself too wimpy to step outside of your comfort zone, force yourself to do something that feels a little uncomfortable.

This Is How Your Thoughts Become Your Reality
Find out how to challenge the self-limiting beliefs that prevent you from reaching your greatest potential.

As we have discovered, the journey to get rid of our implicit bias begins with self-discovery. Knowing who you are and what your implicit biases are is the first step towards outgrowing them. I hope you will genuinely seek to be better by intentionally discovering and outgrowing your implicit biases. And like in my case, may the people around you be the kind that see beyond the discomfort of having a difficult conversation for the purpose of helping you outgrow those biases.

I published the original version of this article on The Red Notebook