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The science behind implicit bias tests (e.g., Implicit Association Test) has become the target of increased criticism. However, policy-makers seeking to combat discrimination care about reducing bias in people's actual behaviors, not about changing a person's score on an implicit bias test. In line with this argument, we postulate that scientific controversies about implicit bias tests are irrelevant for anti-discrimination policy, which should instead focus on implicit bias in actual discriminatory behavior that occurs outside of awareness (in addition to instances of explicit bias). Two well-documented mechanisms can lead to implicit bias in actual discriminatory behavior: biased weighting and biased interpretation of information about members of particular social groups. The policy relevance of the two mechanisms is illustrated with their impact on hiring and promotion decisions, jury selection, and policing. Implications for education and bias intervention are discussed.
in press, Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences 1
Implicit Bias and Anti-Discrimination Policy
Bertram Gawronski
University of Texas at Austin
Alison Ledgerwood
University of California, Davis
Paul Eastwick
University of California, Davis
The science behind implicit bias tests (e.g., Implicit Association Test) has become the target of increased criticism.
However, policy-makers seeking to combat discrimination care about reducing bias in people’s actual behaviors, not about
changing a person’s score on an implicit bias test. In line with this argument, we postulate that scientific controversies
about implicit bias tests are irrelevant for anti-discrimination policy, which should instead focus on implicit bias in actual
discriminatory behavior that occurs outside of awareness (in addition to instances of explicit bias). Two well-documented
mechanisms can lead to implicit bias in actual discriminatory behavior: biased weighting and biased interpretation of
information about members of particular social groups. The policy relevance of the two mechanisms is illustrated with their
impact on hiring and promotion decisions, jury selection, and policing. Implications for education and bias intervention are
Keywords: bias intervention; biased information processing; discrimination; implicit bias; policy
On April 12, 2018, two African American men
asked to use the restroom at a Starbucks in
Philadelphia. A barista told them that the bathrooms
were for customers only (Park, 2018). When the two
men were asked to leave the premises after they
occupied a table without making a purchase, they
declined to leave, saying they were waiting for an
acquaintance. In response, the store manager called
the police, who escorted the two men out of the
coffee shop. When a video of the incident taken by a
customer went viral on social media, Starbucks
apologized and closed all of its brand-operated stores
for half a day to provide mandatory implicit bias
training for its 175,000 employees (Chapell, 2018).
In line with Starbucks’s response to the
described incident, an increasing number of public
institutions and private corporations offer or require
implicit bias training for their employees. Yet, at the
same time, the science behind implicit bias tests has
become the target of increased criticism. This
criticism is based on research suggesting that (1)
relations between people’s responses on implicit bias
tests (e.g., Implicit Association Test; Greenwald,
McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998) and actual
discriminatory behavior (e.g., biased hiring
decisions) are rather weak (Oswald, Mitchell,
Blanton, Jaccard, & Tetlock, 2013), (2) many lab-
based interventions influence responses on implicit
bias tests without affecting discriminatory behavior
(Forscher, Lai, Axt, Ebersole, Herman, Devine, &
Nosek, 2019), and (3) responses on implicit bias tests
may reflect the level of bias in a person’s social
environment rather than personal animosities (Payne,
Vuletich, & Lundberg, 2017). Over the past few
years, these concerns have also received increased
attention in the popular media, which is reflected in
critical headlines such as Can We Really Measure
Implicit Bias? Maybe Not (Bartlett, 2017) or The
False ‘Science’ of Implicit Bias (MacDonald, 2017).
Although some of the arguments against implicit
bias tests can be criticized for ignoring important
theoretical, empirical, and methodological issues (see
Brownstein, Madva, & Gawronski, in press;
Gawronski, 2019; Kurdi et al., 2019), the ongoing
controversies surrounding these tests raise the
question of whether it is wise to base anti-
discrimination policies on the notion of implicit bias.
In the current article, we argue that criticism of
implicit bias tests have implications for anti-
discrimination policy only if implicit bias is equated
with responses on these tests (e.g., when implicit bias
is equated with people’s responses on the Implicit
Association Test). Although this conceptualization is
widespread in the scientific literature, it is
problematic for various reasons (see Calanchini &
Sherman, 2013; Corneille & Hütter, in press; De
Houwer, 2019; Gawronski, 2019; Payne & Correll, in
An alternative conceptualization that seems
superior for applied questions (i.e., policy) defines
implicit bias in terms of actual discriminatory
behavior. According to this conceptualization,
discriminatory behavior represents an instance of
implicit bias to the extent that the person showing the
behavior is unaware that their behavior is biased. The
central argument is that anti-discrimination policy
should consider evidence for implicit bias in terms of
this behavioral conceptualization instead of
dismissing the notion of implicit bias because of
extant controversies about implicit bias tests.
in press, Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences 2
Sources of Implicit Bias in Behavior
From a psychological perspective, discrimination
can be said to occur when a person’s behavior toward
a target individual is influenced by the target’s group
membership, including (but not limited to) the
target’s race, gender, or sexual orientation. Of
particular concern for policy are instances of
discrimination that involve negative outcomes for the
target individual.
Examples include discrimination
based on race or gender in hiring, recruitment,
compensation, promotion, and termination; other
examples include discrimination in housing and
police support (Greenwald & Pettigrew, 2014). In
terms of the above conceptualization, discriminatory
behaviors in these cases are instances of implicit bias
to the extent that a person is unaware that their
behavior is influenced by the category membership of
the target (e.g., the target’s race or gender; see
Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2012). Research in
social psychology has documented two mechanisms
that can lead to implicit bias in terms of the proposed
conceptualization: (1) biased weighting of mixed
information and (2) biased interpretation of
ambiguous information. The general pattern
underlying both instances is that people show an
initial response to the target that is influenced by the
target’s category membership, and this initial
response influences the subsequent processing of
information about the target.
Biased Weighting
One mechanism that can lead to implicit bias in
terms of the proposed behavioral conceptualization is
biased weighting of information (e.g., Hodson,
Dovidio, & Gaertner, 2002; Norton, Vandello, &
Darley, 2004; Uhlmann & Cohen, 2005). Such biases
tend to be particularly pronounced in cases involving
judgments and decisions about multiple targets when
the available information about these targets is
mixed. For example, in hiring decisions involving a
male and a female candidate with distinct job-
relevant qualifications, an interviewer may attribute
greater weight to the unique strengths of the male
candidate (e.g., better grades) compared to the unique
strengths of the female candidate (e.g., more
experience). However, the differential weighting of
strengths might be biased in the sense that it merely
Note that a purely psychological definition of discrimination does
not cover systemic aspects (e.g., the lingering consequences of
slavery, redlining, and the denial of civil rights), which we deem
equally important for policy, yet are beyond the scope of this
article. Although the current article focuses mainly on the
psychological level, we deem policies that treat everyone equal
regardless of group membership as insufficient, because such
policies tend to perpetuate existing inequalities rooted in systemic
discrimination (see Rothstein, 2017).
serves as a post-hoc justification for hiring the male
candidate rather than as an a priori criterion. For
example, an interviewer might have an “intuitive”
preference for a male over a female candidate,
because there is a greater fit between social
stereotypes about men and the qualities believed to
be necessary for successful performance (Heilman,
2012). In such cases, the interviewer might
rationalize their “intuitive” preference for the male
candidate by focusing on unique strengths of the
male candidate and/or unique weaknesses of the
female candidate. To the extent that people are
unaware of their bias in weighting mixed information
in a manner that merely justifies a pre-existing
preference, it can lead to discriminatory behavior in
terms of the proposed conceptualization of implicit
Empirical evidence for biased weighting of
mixed information comes from a number of decision-
making studies in which (1) participants were
presented with sets of distinct information about two
(or more) target individuals who differ in terms of
their category membership (e.g., race, gender), and
(2) the assignment of the information sets to the two
targets was experimentally manipulated, such that
participants in one condition saw Information X
about Target A and Information Y about Target B,
while participants in the other condition saw
Information Y about Target A and Information X
about Target B. A key aspect of these studies is that
the two sets of information suggest distinct qualities
in the sense that one set suggests a unique strength in
one domain whereas the other set suggests a unique
strength in a different domain. A biasing effect of the
target’s category membership on participants’
relative weighting of these strengths can be inferred
when participants (1) show a preference for the same
target regardless of the information paired with the
target (e.g., a preference for a male over a female
candidate regardless of the information about the two
candidates) and (2) justify their preference with the
unique strength that happens to characterize the
preferred candidate in the experimental condition
randomly assigned.
For example, in a study by Norton et al. (2004),
participants viewed application materials of a male
and a female job candidate and indicated which of the
two candidates they would prefer for particular job.
In one condition, the male candidate had less work
experience but more education than the female
candidate did. In another condition, the male
candidate had less education but more work
experience than the female candidate did. Consistent
with the idea of biased weighting, participants
showed a preference for the male candidate in both
experimental conditions and justified their responses
in press, Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3
with whatever qualification made him superior to the
female candidate. That is, when the male candidate
excelled in terms of education, participants listed
education as the most significant criterion. Yet, when
the male candidate excelled in terms experience,
participants listed experience as the most significant
criterion (for similar findings, see Hodson et al.,
2002; Uhlmann & Cohen, 2005). Further research
suggests that biasing effects of differential weighting
occur outside of awareness, in that participants’ self-
perceptions of objectivity in their decision were
associated with greater (rather than smaller) bias
(Uhlmann & Cohen, 2005).
Although biased weighting can lead to
discrimination in a wide range of real-world contexts,
its effects are most prominently reflected in selective
choice decisions, such as admission, hiring, and
promotion decisions. In such cases, decision-makers
often have to identify a small number of candidates
(or only one) among a large number of highly
qualified candidates. What makes these decisions
particularly difficult is that the relevant evaluation
criteria are often multidimensional rather
unidimensional, forcing decision-makers to compare
“apples and oranges” when candidates differ in term
of their relative strengths. Thus, to the extent that the
relative importance of evaluation criteria remains
unspecified, decision-makers have to come up with
their own weighting schema, leaving considerable
room for arbitrary weightings that merely justify a
decision-maker’s biased preference (Bragger,
Kutcher, Morgan, & Firth, 2002; Uhlmann & Cohen,
2005). Such biases are difficult to address, because
decision-makers tend to think of their decisions as
being based on their impressions of specific
individuals rather than beliefs about the social groups
to which these individuals belong (see Ledgerwood,
Eastwick, & Gawronski, in press). For example,
people may deny that gender had any influence on
their preference for a male over a female candidate
and refer primarily to unique strengths of the male
target without realizing that they would justify their
preference with whatever criterion makes the male
candidate seem superior.
Another example of biased weighting in real-
world contexts is bias in jury selection. In 1986, the
U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prospective jurors
could not be challenged on the basis of being a
member of a cognizable racial group (Batson v.
Kentucky, 1986). Subsequent rulings have extended
this rule to preemptory challenges based on gender
(J.E.B. v. Alabama, 1994). However, questions have
been raised about whether requiring attorneys to
justify suspicious challengeswhich has become
common practice since Batson v. Kentuckyis
effective in preventing bias in jury selection
(Sommers & Norton, 2008). Similar to the concern
about biased weighting in the justification of hiring
decisions, attorneys may justify their preemptory
challenges by referring to race- and gender-neutral
characteristics, but this does not mean that their
challenges are unaffected by a juror’s race and
gender. In line with this concern, experimental
studies found that race influenced preemptory
challenges by advanced law students and practicing
attorneys, but their justifications were entirely race-
neutral (Sommers & Norton, 2007). Although
participants might have been aware of their biased
reasoning, biased weighting of information to justify
a particular decision would qualify as an instance of
implicit bias, to the extent that attorneys are unaware
of the influence of race or gender on their preemptory
Biased Interpretation
Even when two individuals do the same thing,
people often perceive the behavior differently
depending on the category membership of the
behaving person (e.g., Darley & Gross, 1983;
Duncan, 1976; Gawronski, Geschke, & Banse, 2003;
Hugenberg & Bodenhausen, 2003; Kunda &
Sherman-Williams, 1993; Sagar & Schofield, 1980;
Trope, 1986). Such biased perceptions are
particularly pronounced when the observed behavior
is ambiguous. For example, a teacher may perceive a
student’s essay for an English class as stronger when
the student is White than when the student is Black,
but the student’s race may have little impact on the
teacher’s perceptions of objectively correct or
incorrect responses on a math exam (Darley & Gross,
1983). Because people tend to treat their subjective
perceptions as direct reflections of objective reality
rather than the product of active construal processes
that are prone to perceptual biases (Trope & Gaunt,
1999), attempts to correct one’s biased perceptions
are relatively rare, leading to discriminatory behavior
without people being aware of their biases (see
Strack & Hannover, 1996; Wegener & Petty, 1997;
Wilson & Brekke, 1994).
Empirical evidence for biased interpretations
comes from a number of studies in which (1)
participants were presented with ambiguous
information about a target person and (2) the target
person’s category membership was experimentally
manipulated, such that the target belonged to one
social category (e.g., White) in one condition and a
different social category (e.g., Black) in another
condition. A key aspect of these studies is that the
ambiguous information is exactly the same in the two
experimental conditions, the only difference being
the category membership of the target. A biasing
effect of the target’s category membership on
participants’ interpretations of the ambiguous
in press, Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4
behavior can be inferred when participants judge the
behavior differently in the two experimental
For example, in a study by Hugenberg and
Bodenhausen (2003), participants watched short
video clips of either Black or White targets whose
facial expressions changed either from smiling to
frowning or from frowning to smiling. The
experimenters created the target faces with a 3D
computer program, such that the facial structure was
identical for matched Black and White targets, the
only difference being their skin color and hairstyle.
Participants’ task was to press a key (1) as soon as
they saw hostility in the target’s face, when the facial
expression was changing from smiling to frowning,
and (2) as soon as they do not see any hostility in the
target’s face, when the facial expression was
changing from frowning to smiling. Consistent with
the hypothesis that even perceptions of basic
emotional expressions can be biased by category
membership, participants perceived hostility earlier
and for longer durations when the target faces were
Black than when they were White (see also Bijlstra,
Holland, Dotsch, Hugenberg, & Wigboldus, 2014;
Hutchings & Haddock, 2008). Further research
suggests that such biasing effects occur outside of
awareness, in that even people who are highly
motivated to respond in a non-prejudicial manner
show the same bias in their perceptions of ambiguous
information (Gawronski et al., 2003).
The real-world relevance of biased
interpretations can be illustrated with the cases listed
under hashtag #LivingWhileBlack, which describe
ordinary activities for which police have been called
on African Americans (Griggs, 2018). In addition to
the above-mentioned case of waiting for an
acquaintance at Starbucks, the list includes mundane
activities such as moving into an apartment, making a
phone call in a hotel lobby, shopping for prom
clothes, not waving while leaving an Airbnb, eating
lunch on a college campus, working as a home
inspector, and delivering newspapers. The general
theme underlying these cases is that, while the
described behaviors tend to be perceived as ordinary
when a White person does them, they are perceived
as suspicious (and potentially threatening) when a
Black person does them.
A lethal variant of such biased perceptions is the
tendency to more frequently misidentify harmless
objects as weapons when they are held by a Black
person than when they are held by a White person
(for a review, see Payne & Correll, in press).
Although early research suggested that this tendency
is rooted in impulsive response tendencies that can be
intentionally controlled given sufficient time and
mental resources (Payne, Shimizu, & Jacoby, 2005),
more recent evidence supports the idea that the
greater tendency to shoot unarmed Black (vs. White)
men is at least partly driven by unconscious visual
processes leading to biased perceptions of ambiguous
objects (Correll, Wittenbrink, Crawford, & Sadler,
2015). Beyond racially biased identifications of
harmless objects as weapons, unconscious perceptual
biases have also been implicated in divergent
perceptions of video evidence (Granot, Balcetis,
Feigeson, & Tyler, 2016).
Another illustrative example is the concern that
the same agentic behavior is often perceived less
favorably when a woman does it than when a man
does (Rudman, Moss-Racusin, Glick, & Phelan,
2012). For example, while self-promoting, assertive,
and dominant behavior is often interpreted positively
in a man (e.g., reflecting confidence and leadership),
the same behavior is more likely to be interpreted
negatively in a woman (e.g., reflecting neuroticism
and disagreeableness). In work contexts, such biased
perceptions can lead to gender discrimination in
promotions for leadership roles, given that promotion
decisions depend on perceptions of leadership-
relevant traits. Yet, unlike the idea that gender
influences such decisions in a direct manner, the
notion of biased interpretation suggests a more
subtle, indirect effect. That is, a person’s gender
influences people’s perceptions of the person’s
behavior, which in turn influences overall
impressions of that person’s suitability for a
leadership role (Trope, 1986). As with the effects of
biased weighting, such biases are difficult to address,
because decision-makers tend to think of their
decisions as being based on their impressions of a
specific person rather than their beliefs about men
and women in general (see Ledgerwood et al., in
press). Thus, people may deny that a target’s
category membership had any influence on their
decision and refer primarily to their perceptions of
the specific target person, without realizing that their
perception of the target’s behavior is influenced by
the target’s category membership (see Dovidio &
Gaertner, 2004).
For example, a manager might carefully select a
set of qualities that an employee should display in
order to get a promotion (e.g., assertiveness, strong
leadership potential) and then evaluate each
employee with respect to those traits. Yet, implicit
bias could creep into this decision if the manager
perceives the same behavior differently depending on
the group membership of the employees (e.g., Mark
and Maria both express anger toward someone who
missed a deadline, but Mark’s behavior is interpreted
as assertive whereas Maria’s behavior is interpreted
as volatile; Mark is then evaluated as more assertive
and thus more deserving of a promotion). Thus, even
in press, Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences 5
when people are careful to be evenhanded in their
decision-making process, biased interpretations of
ambiguous behavior may have already shaped
upstream impressions of the individuals being
Implications for Education and Intervention
Organizational efforts to combat bias have
created a multi-billion dollar industry (Lipman,
2018). Yet, empirical assessments of their
effectiveness in increasing diversity suggest a bleak
conclusion (Kalev, Dobbin, & Kelly, 2006).
Although the identified reasons for this outcome are
complex and beyond the scope of this article (for a
discussion, see Carter, Onyeador, & Lewis, in press),
the reviewed effects of biased weighting and biased
interpretation suggest that extant interventions would
benefit from considering their contributions to
discrimination in the workplace and various other
Raising Awareness
A first step in this regard is to increase public
awareness of the two sources of bias by educating
people how biased weighting and biased
interpretation can lead to discriminatory behavior.
Examples of suitable contexts for this endeavor are
organizational trainings and dedicated lectures in
high-school classes, which may include presentations
on the evidence reviewed above. Hands-on exercises
that replicate experimental demonstrations of the two
mechanisms could be particularly helpful to illustrate
their impact. Popular media may also contribute to
increasing public awareness by communicating the
scientific evidence for biased weighting and biased
interpretation to non-academic audiences. Because
describing bias as unconscious can lead people to feel
less accountable for biased actions (Daumeyer,
Onyeador, Brown, & Richeson, 2019; Payne,
Cameron, & Knobe, 2010), discussions of implicit
bias should emphasize the responsibility of
individuals and organizations to create policies and
procedures to prevent expressions of implicit bias in
individual behavior. To avoid implying that bias only
exists at the level of individuals, these discussions
should also contextualize the issue of implicit bias at
the individual level in a broader understanding of
systemic and historical bias (see Bonam, Das,
Coleman, & Salter, 2019; Salter, Adams, & Perez,
Strategies for Individuals
Although knowledge of the two mechanisms that
we have described is an important first step in
combatting their effects, such knowledge alone seems
unlikely to eliminate their impact without additional
hands-on strategies (Carter et al., in press). For
example, a person may be aware that biased
weighting can lead to discrimination in hiring
decisions, but the person may not be aware that
biased weighting influences their own hiring decision
in a particular case. Regarding bias correction at the
individual level, some research suggests that a
strategy termed consider-the-opposite (Hirt &
Markman, 1995; Lord, Lepper, & Preston, 1984) can
be helpful to combat effects of biased weighting. The
strategy involves a reconsideration of the same
information assuming that the target differed on a
potentially biasing characteristic. For example, in
cases involving a choice between a male and a female
job candidate, people may mentally simulate whether
they would make a different choice if the
qualifications of the two candidates were swapped. If
people realize that their preference for the male
candidate would be unaffected by a swap of
qualifications, their formerly implicit bias would
become explicit in the sense that they are now
aware of the biasing effect of gender on their hiring
preference. This insight allows decision-makers to
“re-compute” their judgments taking the identified
source of bias into account (Strack, 1992).
Although mental simulations considering the
opposite can be helpful in identifying effects of
biased weighting, identifying effects of biased
interpretation is more difficult. For example, in cases
involving interpretations of ambiguous behavior
shown by an African American person, people may
mentally simulate how they would perceive the
behavior if the target was White. To the extent that
the behavior would be perceived differently for a
White target, people would become aware of the
biasing effect of race on their perception of the
target’s behavior, providing a basis to “re-compute”
their judgments taking the identified source of bias
into account (Strack, 1992). However, the likelihood
of such awareness-raising effects is relatively low,
because such mental simulations are based, not on
objective features of the observed behavior, but
subjective interpretations of the behavior, which are
prone to the bias described above. For example, a
person may conclude that they should call the police
on anyone who is trying to break into a house
regardless of whether person is White or Black.
However, they may not realize that they are
interpreting the target’s ambiguous behavior as
“trying to break into a house” only because the target
is Black, and that they would not have interpreted the
Although it is possible that some people respond defensively to
the outcomes of their mental simulations and try to justify their
initial preference, any such justifications will differ from the initial
ones, because people would have to justify a bias that is now
explicit (e.g., they would have to justify why they would hire a
male over a female candidate regardless of their qualifications).
in press, Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences 6
same behavior in this way if the target had been
White. This intricate link makes it difficult to
determine if one’s perception of a person’s behavior
is biased by the person’s category membership.
Strategies for Organizations
As the discussion above makes clear, identifying
and correcting for implicit bias at the individual level
can be challenging. Indeed, a more effective way to
combat implicit bias is to change structures and
procedures to create contexts in which discrimination
is less likely to occur (Carter et al., in press; Salter et
al., 2018). One of the most effective strategies in
decision-making contexts is to “remove” potentially
biasing category information, as is the case in the
practice of blinded evaluation. Such a policy can
effectively prevent effects of both biased weighting
and biased interpretation (Goldin & Rouse, 2000). If
there is no category information to begin with, it
cannot bias the weighting of mixed information or
the interpretation of ambiguous information.
To the extent that blinding is not feasible, an
alternative strategy to prevent effects of biased
weighting is to specify unambiguous decision criteria
before decision-makers review any information about
the relevant target individuals (Bragger et al., 2002;
Uhlmann & Cohen, 2005). In hiring contexts, clear
specifications and prior commitment to specific
criteria can reduce arbitrary weightings that serve to
merely justify a pre-existing preference independent
of the actual information about the candidates
(Uhlmann & Cohen, 2005). Similar effects occur for
highly structured (compared to informal) interviews,
which have proven their effectiveness in reducing
biases against pregnant job applicants (Bragger et al.,
However, prior specification of evaluation
criteria will increase diversity only if the identified
criteria are unbiased in the sense that they do not
favor members of certain groups. For example, a
manager might select a set of qualities for evaluating
employees that includes the traits assertive,
confident, and leadership potential. Such a list can
lead to biased outcomes if the identified qualities are
more readily inferred from behaviors when the
person performing the behavior is a man rather than a
woman (e.g., via biased interpretations of ambiguous
behavior). To combat this source of bias, decision-
makers would need to be accountable for adding
equally desirable qualities that fit better with
stereotypes of women than men (e.g., excellent
communicator and inspires effective teamwork), so
that the resulting list of desired criteria became more
balanced. It may also help to create procedures that
increase the amount of time that evaluation
committees spend discussing attributes that favor
systematically disadvantaged candidates (e.g., asking
committees to spend as much time discussing
candidate warmth as they spend discussing candidate
competence), although additional research is needed
to test this intervention idea in real-world hiring
contexts (Chang & Cikara, 2018).
Of course, the psychological processes
underlying discrimination do not take place in a
vacuum. Individual decisions and behaviors are
always situated in a broader historical and societal
context. Strategies designed to combat implicit bias
at the individual level can only go so far (Bonam et
al., 2019; Payne & Vuletich, 2018). It will be
important for organizations to invest in long-term
training (rather than expecting a single training to
have long-term behavioral consequences), monitor
training effectiveness in particular contexts, and
develop organizational structures that increase
accountability for diversity (e.g., diversity
committees and staff positions; Carter et al., in press;
Kalev et al., 2006). Even perfectly evenhanded
behavior at the individual level can perpetuate
inequalities produced by long periods of systemic
discrimination (see Kendi, 2017; Rothstein, 2017).
Because such processes involve societal factors that
go beyond the psychological mechanisms discussed
in the current article, they require additional
strategies to combat bias at the systemic level (e.g.,
affirmative action policies).
Research on implicit bias has become the target
of increased criticism, raising questions about
whether anti-discrimination policy should be based
on a controversial construct. In response to this
concern, we argued that extant criticism of implicit
bias tests (e.g., Implicit Association Test) affects
anti-discrimination policy only if implicit bias is
equated with responses on these tests; it remains
unaffected if implicit bias is defined behaviorally in
terms of actual discriminatory behavior. This
alternative conceptualization highlighted the role of
two well-understood mechanisms that can lead to
discriminatory behavior outside of awareness: biased
weighting of mixed information and biased
interpretation of ambiguous information. Of course,
either type of bias may be systematically related to
responses on implicit bias tests, which is a question
for basic scientific research (for a review, see
Gawronski, Hofmann, & Wilbur, 2006). However,
this question is entirely irrelevant for anti-
discrimination policy on implicit bias. What matters
for such policy is implicit bias in actual
discriminatory behavior.
The social psychological literature offers
valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying
implicit bias in actual discriminatory behavior and
in press, Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences 7
potential strategies to combat their effects. Some of
these strategies have already proven their
effectiveness in reducing bias (e.g., blinded
evaluations, prior specification of evaluation criteria,
structured as opposed to informal interviews); others
were derived from lab-based findings that await
further testing in real-world contexts (e.g., public
knowledge of the two mechanisms, consider-the-
opposite, stereotypically balanced evaluation
criteria). Yet, all of them can be easily included in
extant diversity trainings, and organizational
executives can implement them into their decision-
making procedures with little or no extra costs (e.g.,
blinded evaluations, prior specification of evaluation
criteria, structured as opposed to informal interviews,
stereotypically balanced evaluation criteria).
Although effective interventions will require
approaches that target individual, organizational, and
systematic aspects of discrimination, neither
approach will succeed without considering implicit
bias in discriminatory behavior that occurs outside of
awareness. References
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implicit bias? Maybe not. The Chronicle of
Higher Education. Retrieved from
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... If empirical evidence confirms the implicit nature of bias, important follow-up questions pertain to the causes of IB, its consequences, and its underlying processes. Regarding the last question, Gawronski, Ledgerwood, and Eastwick (2020) discussed the roles of two potential mechanisms that have received considerable empirical attention: (1) biased interpretation and (2) biased weighting (see also Bodenhausen, 1988). ...
... Moreover, even when such broader interventions are available, interventions at the individual-level will most likely have to be supplemented with changes at the structural level of decision environments to tackle IB more effectively . Although some recommendations on these issues can be derived from the literature on bias correction (see Gawronski, Ledgerwood, et al., 2020) and racial identity development (see Helms, 1997), we still know surprisingly little about the most effective ways to reduce IB. Research investigating the effectiveness of bias interventions in reducing BIM are not suitable to address these questions, because BIM is not the same as IB. ...
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People can behave in a biased manner without being aware that their behavior is biased, an idea commonly referred to as implicit bias. Research on implicit bias has been heavily influenced by implicit measures, in that implicit bias is often equated with bias on implicit measures. Drawing on a definition of implicit bias as an unconscious effect of social category cues on behavioral responses, the current article argues that the widespread equation of implicit bias and bias on implicit measures is problematic on conceptual and empirical grounds. A clear separation of the two constructs will: (1) resolve ambiguities arising from the multiple meanings implied by current terminological conventions; (2) stimulate new research by uncovering important questions that have been largely ignored; (3) provide a better foundation for theories of implicit bias through greater conceptual precision; and (4) highlight the broader significance of implicit bias in a manner that is not directly evident from bias on implicit measures.
... Sie konnten zeigen, dass (mehrheitlich weiße) Studierende negativere Einstellungen gegenüber Afroamerikaner*innen hatten, wenn sie an Universitäten studierten, an denen Monumente und Statuen an Generäle und Soldaten erinnerten, die aufseiten der konföderierten Staaten für eine Aufrechterhaltung der Versklavung von Schwarzen gekämpft hatten. Folglich wird aufgrund dieses und ähnlicher Befunde in zunehmendem Maße gefordert, dass auch Strukturen und Situationen so gestaltet sein sollten, dass Stereotype weniger wahrscheinlich aktiviert werden und Diskriminierung weniger häufig auftritt (Carter et al., 2020;Gawronski et al., 2020;Payne & Vuletich, 2018 ...
Im ersten Teil des vorliegenden Kapitels wird zunächst beschrieben, wie Menschen sich selbst und andere in Gruppen einteilen (soziale Kategorisierung) und diese Gruppen mit bestimmten Eigenschaften verbinden (Stereotype). Anschließend werden theoretische Ansätze zur Entwicklung von Stereotypen im Kindesalter dargelegt. Im zweiten Teil des Kapitels werden Forschungsergebnisse zu sozialer Kategorisierung und Stereotypen bei jungen Kindern (vom Säuglingsalter bis zum Grundschulübergang) zusammengefasst. Der dritte Teil fokussiert die Aktivierung und Anwendung von Stereotypen. Es werden Ansätze dargestellt, die erklären, wann Stereotype eher einen Einfluss auf das Verhalten haben, und es wird herausgearbeitet, unter welchen Umständen Stereotypisierung in Kindertagesstätten und Kindergärten wahrscheinlich ist. Im vierten Teil werden verschiedene Ansätze zur Reduzierung von Stereotypen, Vorurteilen und Diskriminierung dargestellt und es werden Befunde zur Wirksamkeit von Interventionen diskutiert. Exemplarisch wird im fünften Teil eine Intervention (die Prejudice Habit-Breaking Intervention) vorgestellt und mit praktischen Anwendungsbeispielen im Kontext Kindergarten und Kindertagesstätte illustriert. Zuletzt findet sich eine praxisorientierte Kurzzusammenfassung der Hauptinhalte des Kapitels für pädagogische Fachkräfte.
... In our target article, we discussed two potential mechanisms underlying unconscious biases: (1) biased interpretation of ambiguous information and (2) biased weighting of mixed information. Different from the conceptually distal links between real-world behavior and unintentional bias on implicit measures, the contexts in which the proposed underpinnings of unconscious bias tend to operate have clear counterparts in real-world settings (e.g., hiring and promotion decisions, jury selection, criminal sentencing, policing; see Gawronski, Ledgerwood, & Eastwick, 2020). However, one commentator expressed skepticism about the idea that findings from experimental lab research-which subsumes most of the research on biased interpretation and biased weighting-could be used to understand social disparities in real-world settings (Cesario, this issue). ...
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We are pleased about the considerable interest in our target article and that there is overwhelming agreement with our central thesis that, if the term implicit is understood as unconscious in reference to bias, implicit bias (IB) should not be equated with bias on implicit measures (BIM). We are also grateful for the insightful commentaries, which continue to advance the field’s thinking on this topic. The comments inspired us to think further about the relation between IB and BIM as well as the implications of a clear distinction between the two. In the current reply, we build on these comments, respond to some critical questions, and clarify some arguments that were insufficiently clear in our target article.
... In synthesis while there is a presence of the fear of discrimination, the other societal sectors and entities do not necessarily abandon the members of the homosexual groups rather they are not explicitly supporting to which at face value no support will be given. (Katri, 2017;Ziller, 2014;Gawronski, Legerwood, and Eastwick., 2020) The law framers do not necessarily favor or disfavor a certain pressure group but rather they rely on the explicit manifestation of the constituents. In order to usher in the full potential of human rights, and for social change to prosper, a collective action must be done not only by society but by specifically the LGBTQIA Filipinos as well. ...
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The Anti-Discrimination Act of Marikina, signed in 2019, has gathered much interest from the public, as all Anti-Discrimination Policies in the Philippines have (Hallare, 2019). Ascertaining the crucial participatory role of the citizens of Marikina and their relationship with the law-makers themselves in materializing the said ordinance is given premium. A scaffold of the elements of the study will be reviewed pertaining to Anti-Discrimination Policy Integration and Notion, Political Participation, and a highlight on the Philosophy of Politics in order to concretize the concepts and theories found in the study. In its rarity, an explicit utilization of the existential theory of the Dasein by Martin Heidegger as a means to reconcile Philosophy and Political Science in the name of policy development, is integrated. This study found that Marikina City law-makers allowed for a high participation of the public institutions making it to a level of civic engagement, on the other hand, the volition of the people allowed for a response to such engagement that focused on the phases of democracy which the process went through, and finally the materiality of the ordinance proved to be a product of the political socialization of the political beings. The Dasein is translated as the presence of the political being, being there means a circumstance of public policy is determined not only by the actors but rather movements and actuations, become contributory to the process.
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The capability approach focuses on understanding and removing unfreedom, so it is surprising that connections between capability and oppression have been little discussed. I take seven steps towards filling that void. (1) There is an intuitive conceptual connection if we understand “oppression” as being held or confined to low capability levels. (2) Normatively, it is noteworthy that oppressed people are held at low capability levels as a result of the agency of others, even if (as in systemic or structural oppression) this effect is not always intended. (3) Capability research can contribute to explaining and understanding oppression, including systemic or structural oppression, and (4) this research not only allows but invites inquiry into what is distinctive about specific forms of oppression. (5) Why these unfreedoms are pervasive and persistent requires deeper explanations, which have agency foundations: one group contributes causally to reducing the agency freedom of others, whether this reduction is anyone’s purpose or not. (6) Our thinking about what is wrong with oppression must match our understanding of why it is pervasive and persistent; thus (7) recognising oppression as a kind of subjection is essential for understanding what is wrong with systemic oppression.
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Dual-learning theories of evaluations posit that evaluations can be automatically (i.e., efficiently, unconsciously, uncontrollably, and involuntarily) acquired. They also often assume evaluative learning processes that are impervious to verbal information. In this article, we explain that recent research challenges both assertions for three categories of measures: “explicit” evaluative measures, “implicit” evaluative measures, and physiological measures of fear. In doing so, we also question the widespread assumption that “implicit” (i.e., typically behavioral and physiological) versus “explicit” (i.e., self-reported) evaluative measures are indicative of the way evaluations are acquired. In the second part of the article, we discuss the practical implications of these recent findings.
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This article provides a comprehensive review of divergent conceptualizations of the "implicit" construct that have emerged in attitude research over the past two decades. In doing so, our goal is to raise awareness of the harmful consequences of conceptual ambiguities associated with this terminology. We identify three main conceptualizations of the "implicitness" construct: The procedural conceptualization (implicit as indirect), the functional conceptualization (implicit as automatic), and the mental theory conceptualization (implicit as associative), as well as two hybrid conceptualizations (implicit as indirect and automatic, implicit as driven by affective gut reactions). We discuss critical limitations associated with each conceptualization and explain that confusion also arises from their coexistence. We recommend discontinuing the usage of the "implicit" terminology in attitude research and research inspired by it. We offer terminological alternatives aimed at increasing both the precision of theorization and the practical value of future research.
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What is the status of research on implicit bias? In light of meta-analyses revealing ostensibly low average correlations between implicit measures and behavior, as well as various other psychometric concerns, criticism has become ubiquitous. We argue that while there are significant challenges and ample room for improvement, research on the causes, psychological properties, and behavioral effects of implicit bias continues to deserve a role in the sciences of the mind as well as in efforts to understand, and ultimately combat, discrimination and inequality.
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We leverage the notion that abstraction enables prediction to generate novel insights and hypotheses for the literatures on attitudes and mate preferences. We suggest that ideas about liking (e.g., evaluations of categories or overall traits) are more abstract than experiences of liking (e.g., evaluations of particular exemplars), and that ideas about liking may facilitate mental travel beyond the here-and-now.
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Implicit bias is often viewed as a hidden force inside people that makes them perform inappropriate actions. This perspective can induce resistance against the idea that people are implicitly biased and complicates research on implicit bias. I put forward an alternative perspective that views implicit bias as a behavioral phenomenon. more specifically, it is seen as behavior that is automatically influenced by cues indicative of the social group to which others belong. This behavioral perspective is less likely to evoke resistance because implicit bias is seen as something that people do rather than possess and because it clearly separates the behavioral phenomenon from its normative implications. Moreover, performance on experimental tasks such as the Implicit Association Test is seen an instance of implicitly biased behavior rather than a proxy of hidden mental biases. Because these tasks allow for experimental control, they provide ideal tools for studying the automatic impact of social cues on behavior, for predicting other instances of biased behavior, and for educating people about implicitly biased behavior. The behavioral perspective not only changes the way we think about implicit bias but also shifts the aims of research on implicit bias and reveals links with other behavioral approaches such as network modeling.
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Using data from 217 research reports (N = 36,071, compared to 3,471 and 5,433 in previous meta-analyses), this meta-analysis investigated the conceptual and methodological conditions under which Implicit Association Tests (IATs) measuring attitudes, stereotypes, and identity correlate with criterion measures of intergroup behavior. We found significant implicit–criterion correlations (ICCs) and explicit–criterion correlations (ECCs), with unique contributions of implicit (β = .14) and explicit measures (β = .11) revealed by structural equation modeling. ICCs were found to be highly heterogeneous, making moderator analyses necessary. Basic study features or conceptual variables did not account for any heterogeneity: Unlike explicit measures, implicit measures predicted for all target groups and types of behavior, and implicit, but not explicit, measures were equally associated with behaviors varying in controllability and conscious awareness. However, ICCs differed greatly by methodological features: Studies with a declared focus on ICCs, standard IATs rather than variants, high-polarity attributes, behaviors measured in a relative (two categories present) rather than absolute manner (single category present), and high implicit–criterion correspondence (k = 13) produced a mean ICC of r = .37. Studies scoring low on these variables (k = 6) produced an ICC of r = .02. Examination of methodological properties—a novelty of this meta-analysis—revealed that most studies were vastly underpowered and analytic strategies regularly ignored measurement error. Recommendations, along with online applications for calculating statistical power and internal consistency are provided to improve future studies on the implicit–criterion relationship.
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Skepticism about the explanatory value of implicit bias in understanding social discrimination has grown considerably. The current article argues that both the dominant narrative about implicit bias as well as extant criticism are based on a selective focus on particular findings that fails to consider the broader literature on attitudes and implicit measures. To provide a basis to move forward, the current article discusses six lessons for a cogent science of implicit bias: (1) There is no evidence that people are unaware of the mental contents underlying their implicit biases. (2) Conceptual correspondence is essential for interpretations of dissociations between implicit and explicit bias. (3) There is no basis to expect strong unconditional relations between implicit bias and behavior. (4) Implicit bias is less (not more) stable over time than explicit bias. (5) Context matters fundamentally for the outcomes obtained with implicit bias measures. (6) Implicit measurement scores do not provide process-pure reflections of bias. The six lessons provide guidance for research that aims to provide more compelling evidence for the properties of implicit bias. At the same time, they suggest that extant criticism does not justify the conclusion that implicit bias is irrelevant for the understanding of social discrimination.
Two decades of research have documented a robust racial bias in the perceptual identification of weapons and the decision to shoot in laboratory simulations. In this chapter, we review the advances that have been made in understanding the causes, correlates, and psychological processes contributing to race biases in threat perception across different experimental paradigms. We begin by offering a psychological definition of bias, and considering how it may differ from folk concepts of bias. We discuss the contributions of this work to the broader field of implicit attitudes research. Most implicit bias research uses experimental tasks as measures of underlying attitudes. In contrast, research on racial bias in threat perception has focused on biased behaviors rather than attitudes. As a result, progress has been made in understanding not only automatic threat reactions but also the cognitive control processes that moderate the expression of automatic reactions in overt behavior. This literature has helped integrate research on implicit bias with research on executive control in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Moreover, this research has served as a test bed for developing quantitative models of social biases, including the use of signal detection theory, multinomial models, and diffusion models. We discuss the relationships among these different classes of models, and what each can contribute to understanding biased threat detection. We consider the complexities in linking findings from well-controlled laboratory experiments to field studies on actual police use of force. We end by considering questions about the rationality of racial biases, and argue that the rationality of a behavior cannot be understood as an empirical question apart from normative judgments of the behavior.
Implicit bias has garnered considerable public attention, with a number of behaviors (e.g., police shootings) attributed to it. Here, we present the results of 4 studies and an internal meta-analysis that examine how people reason about discrimination based on whether it was attributed to the implicit or explicit attitudes of the perpetrators. Participants' perceptions of perpetrator accountability, support for punishment, level of concern about the bias, and support for various efforts to reduce it (e.g., education) were assessed. Taken together, the results suggest that perpetrators of discrimination are held less accountable and often seen as less worthy of punishment when their behavior is attributed to implicit rather than to explicit bias. Moreover, at least under some circumstances, people express less concern about, and are less likely to support efforts to combat, implicit compared with explicit bias. Implications for efforts to communicate the science of implicit bias without undermining accountability for the discrimination it engenders are discussed.
Many of society's most significant social decisions are made over sets of individuals: for example, evaluating a collection of job candidates when making a hiring decision. Rational theories of choice dictate that decision makers' preferences between any two options should remain the same irrespective of the number or quality of other options. Yet people's preferences for each option in a choice set shift in predictable ways as function of the available alternatives. These violations are well documented in consumer behavior contexts: for example, the decoy effect, in which introducing a third inferior product changes consumers' preferences for two original products. The current experiments test the efficacy of social decoys and harness insights from computational models of decision-making to examine whether choice set construction can be used to change preferences in a hiring context. Across seven experiments (N = 6312) we find that participants have systematically different preferences for the exact same candidate as a function of the other candidates in the choice set (Experiments 1a-1d, 2) and the salience of the candidate attributes under consideration (Experiments 2, 3a, 3b). Specifically, compromise and (often) asymmetric-dominance decoys increased relative preference for their yoked candidates when candidates were counterstereotypical (e.g., high warmth/low competence male candidate). More importantly, we demonstrate for the first time that we can mimic the effect of a decoy in the absence of a third candidate by manipulating participants' exposure to candidates' attributes: balanced exposure to candidates' warmth and competence information significantly reduced bias between the two candidates. (PsycINFO Database Record