Confronting Implicit Biases

Listen 49:35
(Big Stock/digitalista)

(Big Stock/digitalista)

We’re trying to have more meaningful conversations about racism as a country. Part of that means talking about implicit bias — assumptions and stereotypes that may influence our decisions and actions without us even realizing it. Implicit bias can have many harmful consequences: The customer who’s accused of stealing; the grad student being told they’re in the wrong room; the driver being pulled over for no reason. And in some cases, these biases can lead to violence.

On this episode, we explore what implicit bias means — what it is, how we can test for it, and what we can do about it. We hear stories about whether or not anti-bias training actually works, the origins — and criticisms — of Harvard’s Implicit Association Test, and where our biases actually come from.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • Stanford University social psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt talks about the ways implicit biases have affected her own life, and how she tries to educate people about them in her work. Her book is “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do.”
  • Evolutionary psychologist Corey Cook from Pacific Lutheran University discusses the evolutionary origins of biases. He argues that they likely developed as a way to assess threats.
  • We hear from Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji, one of the researchers who helped develop the Implicit Association Test, about the humbling experience of confronting her own biases. Her book is “Blind Spot – Hidden Biases of Good People.
  • White people aren’t the only ones with implicit biases — that’s what Brennan Center for Justice fellow Ted Johnson discovered when he took Harvard’s Implicit Association Test a few years ago. In this story, we hear what the test taught Johnson about himself, and about the nature of racism. Johnson’s Atlantic essay is called “Black-on-Black Racism: The Hazards of Implicit Bias.
  • Despite its popularity, the Implicit Association Test has drawn criticism over the years. Is it really an accurate way of measuring biases? Olivia Goldhill, a science reporter for Quartz, helps us dive into the history of the IAT, and its critiques.
  • Neurologists Anjan Chatterjee and Roy Hamilton of the University of Pennsylvania discuss an app they’ve used to try and change people’s biases.

Segments from this episode

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal