Unconscious Bias – how does it affect your decisions?

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We all have unconscious biases. You may answer negatively when asked if you are racist/prejudice/sexist to avoid the discomfort of admitting to these things, and you may well say to yourself that you do not hold any or perhaps limited prejudice against others. But in reality we all have attitudes and stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. And it can be a lot stronger than we realise.

Whether we want it to or not, our brains automatically sort and categorise people into groups. At the end of this blog is a link to a test to see how our unconscious bias is working. Try it if you have a spare 5 minutes; it may be quite eye-opening.

All of the time, we are consciously creating bonds and relationships both in and out of the workplace with people that we like, and this may just be as a result of circumstance. But at the same time, on an unconscious level, we tend to form more positive associations with people who look like us, think like us, sound like us or come from similar backgrounds.

In a team of 5, 10, 20 or even 50 people we are drawn to some individuals over others, individuals who we feel we have things in common with. Research has shown that the beliefs and values gained from our backgrounds, personal experiences, cultural environment and the media, influence how we evaluate ourselves and others.

Our unconscious biases often do not match the beliefs and values we hold consciously. Being aware of this is important in business as it can cause us to take actions or make decisions which are not objective or based on facts.

What can we do overcoming our unconscious biases? Firstly, we need to seek to recognise them and the impact they may have on our actions and decisions, and then we can look to improve our decision making. If you want to test yourself or find out a bit more about this, have a look at the following link: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/uk/

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