Confronting our unconscious biases requires concerted effort. Fortunately, there are simple things everyone can do to avoid the cognitive shortcuts that underpin them
26 August 2020
People Images/Getty Images
We are still getting to grips with the most effective ways to identify and address bias. What is clear is that it is a difficult task that requires concerted, consistent effort. But there are strategies that make a difference.
A first step is to make biases visible. This can include taking the Implicit Association Test to raise awareness, but this needs to be complemented by active reflection – including recognising triggers for bias and examining how our life experiences have shaped our biases.
Research has shown that using blind or anonymised hiring practices may help weaken biases that can limit opportunities for women and minority groups. One study found that using blind auditions increased the likelihood that women musicians were hired by an orchestra by up to 46 per cent. Research in France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands has showed that removing names from applications increases the likelihood that candidates from minority groups will be invited to interview.
We can tackle generalised assumptions by being clear that a particular attribute is associated with an individual rather than their whole group, for example “This boy is good at maths”. This approach can help to diminish stereotypes and the pressure to conform to them.
Taking our time with important decisions can also help us avoid cognitive shortcuts that perpetuate bias. When this isn’t possible, rehearsing reactions to high stress situations can help prevent biased snap decisions, research with police has shown.
Finding ways to identify with members of different groups by forging links with your own sense of self can diminish bias. In one study, nurses from diverse …