Archive for the ‘unconscious bias’ Category

Why Paradigms Shape Policy

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

“In the wake of the new Arizona law allowing the police to detain people they suspect of entering the country illegally, young people are largely displaying vehement opposition.  Meanwhile, baby boomers, despite a youth of “live and let live,” are siding with older Americans and supporting the Arizona law.  This emerging divide has appeared in a handful of surveys taken since the measure was signed into law, including a New York Times/CBS News poll that found that Americans 45 and older were more likely than the young to say the Arizona law was “about right” (as opposed to “going too far” or “not far enough”). Boomers were also more likely to say that “no newcomers” should be allowed to enter the country while more young people favored a “welcome all” approach.”

This quote, obtained from The New York Times writer Damien Cave, highlights the cognitive diversity in our nation regarding immigration.  Ever the “hot topic”, immigration evokes deep emotion, often triggering mechanisms in our brain that have long since been dismissed.  Science tells us the reason for this a formula of one part experience and one part expectation combined with a tendency go with our “gut” feeling.  What’s missing?  Free thought.  Subjective reasoning often leads us to make decisions that we are not consciously aware of, often to the detriment of others.  Regardless of where you stand on the immigration issue, take some time to think about how you perceive the issues in todays world.  Do you research multiple arguments?  Do you empathize with others?  For most of us, the natural answer is no.  We have our mind made up before we even learn of a developing issue.  It is this approach to problem solving that denies nature’s most vital characteristic: CONNECTEDNESS.

As you read the article found by clicking here,, take some time to think of the automatic responses that we all fall victim to.  This post is not intended to sway you to one side of the immigration issue or the other.  Rather, it aims to bring conscious thought to the decisions that shape our society.  Please take some time and share with us your decision making process.


Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain…

September 9, 2009 5 comments

One of the aspects of Diversity2.0 is the focus unconscious biases as a universal condition that all of us are prone.   The article in the Scientific American, “Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain” is a well written piece that describes in detail how the natural condition of human beings is to unconsciously discriminate against others who are not like us.  But, the really fascinating things in the piece suggest that our bias can be based on the most irrelevant characteristics that you can imagine.  From the color of one’s jersey to the random appointment to a group who you have nothing in common with except to belong to that particular group.  Even after just a brief time with being associated to a specific group researchers have demonstrated that we will discriminate in favor of our appointed group over members of other groups.  And get this…in this instance the race, gender, ethnicity, and other characterisitcs that we think really matter in the end don’t.


Another fascinating fact about bias is that most unconscious bias is “triggered” by the situation or environment that a person can find themselves in.  We are basically animals who are guided by patterns of behavior and thoughts.  When one of these neural circuits is triggered by relevant conditions then a pattern of thought coded by emotion, and behavior result in the actions we take and the emotions we feel.

What this means for the workplace:  3 Things.  First, think about your workplace.  What triggers or conditions exist that spark negative emotions in you?  What sparks apprehension?  What fires you up?  A minute of reflection about these questions will help you better understand the type of actions necessary for you to take to stay connected and motivated in your workplace. 

Second, reflect on how you perceive a situation with your fellow employees and customers.  What you perceive as a slight could just be the manifestation of your own mind interpeting a situation to better fit your preconceived mindset.  In other words, what we believe often becomes our reality.

Third, understand that the most powerful thing you can do to reduce you unconscious biases is to give everyone the “benefit of the doubt”.  In other words, tell yourself that everyone is doing the best that they can based on the circumstances.  And your role is to reflect on what positive value you can add to improve the situation.

read the great article here

The Unconscious and Success Linked to Initials of One’s Name…

August 28, 2009 1 comment

A fascinating article is posted in science daily about the power of the unconscious and it’s link to success and the initials of one’s name.  In the article researchers were able to connect the success of students with the initials of their name.  For instance,  if students had initials that contained the letters A or B they were more likely to get an A or B in the class.  Likewise, if their initials contained the letters C or D they were more likely to get a C or D in the class.  Furthermore, the researchers found a correlation between names and initials and where people decided to live and even who they decided to marry.  As an example, Phillip was more prone to move to Philadelphia and marry Pamela.

From a diversity standpoint this further illustrates the power of the unconscious to shape what most of us consider to be rational and consciously considered decisions.  What we now know instead is that even the most arcane decisions we make are not only orginated in our unconscious but in essence controlled by our unconscious.  How many organizational systems in the workplace that we consciously and logically consider to be fair, but are instead in herently unfair due to the power of our unconscious.  A good example is the hiring practices in many workplaces.  Most of these practices include a face to face interview, some sort of test, and in some intances a performance demonstration.  I wonder how many of these “fair” hiring systems are really subconsciously unfair and lead us to hire people like us.

Read the article here

Bias, Not Only in America

May 14, 2009 Leave a comment

blackql4You know sometimes we forget that America with it’s election of the first American of African Descent has made significant strides to reduce bias and discrimination.  Some of us have a tendency to look at the glass as half empty rather than half full.  As such we don’t appreciate the miracle of this country.  A country that is one of the most diverse in the world and is generally the first destination of immigrants. 

India is in the midst of a strong front of discrimination againts it’s minority Muslim population.  Makes for very interesting reading…

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