To Overcome Bias, Recognize It Exists




When I was an undergrad, I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant my freshmen and sophomore year at Mizzou for the Bartholow lab. I helped conduct this study on implicit biases in regards to racism. My time on this research was some of the most interesting work I did at Mizzou and I still find this research to be thought provoking and worth sharing on MLK day.

Here’s a quick premise of the study, from a 2016 Missourian article - I recommend reading:

“Participants in the study are shown a picture of a white or a black person and then an image of a hand tool or handgun that is displayed for less than a second. Then, participants are asked whether they saw a handgun or hand tool.

When the picture is of a black person, participants claim more often that they see — sometimes erroneously — an image of a handgun. Bartholow said the race of the person determines a pattern in people’s biases.

“When that (a black face) is seen on the screen it automatically, subconsciously and implicitly primes people to see something dangerous,” Bartholow said. “It primes people to associate that face with a stereotype of black men and violence.”

Some highlights from this article:

"(Implicit Biases) are thoughts or actions or feelings that come to mind or that rise out from no conscious thought of your own", Bartholow said. "They are unintentional, spontaneous, effortless and occur relatively easily."

"We can't control our stereotypes, but we CAN control whether we behave accordingly to those stereotypes."...”the only way to overcome bias, recognize it exists”.

MLK said, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they do not know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” I agree, people are fearful of what they don't understand and often cling to preconceived bias. So, instead of being judgmental, let’s be curious.

Be curious about other races, sexual orientation, politics, ways of life, etc, be open to learning about anything that is different than you, because that is how we grow. No two people are the same, sharing our stories and what makes us different is a beautiful gift of perspective, we can all offer one another.

People tend to feel inconsequential in the big picture, you see this when people don't vote because ”it doesn't make a difference”. Imagine if MLK thought that way. Start with you, treat others the way you want do be treated. Don't judge yourself based on your intentions, be accountable for your behavior.  At the end of the day, "Your beliefs don't make you a better person, your behavior does."

thoughtsOlivia Rehberger