Topic 2 Unconscious biases

Biases are often hidden, unconscious and automatic.

Unconscious biases are thoughts or feelings that you are not aware of that influence your judgments. These biases are rooted in your preferences for, or against, something.

Your preferences may lead you to having favourable or unfavourable biases.

For example:

  • Everyone from my town is fantastic (favourable bias)

  • Everyone from that generation is lazy (unfavourable bias)

Your unconscious biases often appear favourable towards people who have the same characteristics as you such as culture, religion, political opinion, geographical origin, etc. Your unconscious biases usually appear unfavourable towards people who have characteristics unlike yours.

We evolved that way because unconscious biases are necessary. Organising information into categories is a hard-wired mental shortcut which allowed our ancestors to quickly differentiate between friend and foe.

When do unconscious biases occur?
To understand our unconscious biases, we must learn when they are most likely to occur.
Unconscious biases happen automatically and are triggered by our brain making quick judgments and opinions of people and/or situations. They occur when your preferences towards or against something impacts your actions. These behaviors happen most frequently when under pressure, multitasking, or simply being in a hurry.

Where do unconscious biases come from?
Every person has unconscious biases. It’s hardwired into us. Research by neurologist, Sigmund Freud, states that unconscious thoughts have the largest influence on human behavior.
We all have a background which consists of many characteristics such as age, gender, personality, and education. Our background and our life experiences shape our preferences towards or against something.
Your story creates your biases.

The Iceberg model of culture identifies a visible area (observed variables) consisting of ‘behaviour, clothing, symbols and artifacts’ of some form and ‘a level of values’ as an invisible area (latent variable).

Also, find picture here: 

Examine your level of bias related to things like gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, body type, and more.
The IAT is available online, free of charge, via Project Implicit (

Researchers have indicated that the IAT has shortcomings, HOWEVER, it is still useful for awareness of one’s biases.

Implicit Association Test

✔Be aware of triggers in yourself and others

✔Remember that you are likely to favour people who are like you

✔Do not make assumptions about individuals

✔Be aware of your body language as well as your verbal language

✔Base decisions on facts and information rather than “gut instinct“

Video resource

Implicit Bias – How it effects us and how we push through

Melanie Funchess

Implicit sexism or “everyday sexism” has been highlighted through a project founded by Laura Bates in 2012. Through her website, more than 100,000 women and men have shared their experiences of gender imbalance.

There are numerous studies analysing the impact of sexism, more or less implicit, on different aspects of a woman’s life. For instance, with regard to the workplace, interesting studies show that implicit bias impacts not only the recruitment decision, but also the salary of the individual and the amount of development that is invested in their ongoing progression. Similarly, the study by Eagly and Karau (2002) found that it is more difficult for women to become leaders and to achieve success in leadership roles because a perceived incongruity between the female gender role and leadership roles leads to two forms of prejudice:

  • Perceiving women less favourably than men as potential occupants of leadership roles.

  • Evaluating behaviour that fulfils the prescriptions of a leader role less favourably when it is enacted by a woman.

Reading resource:
Forms of gender discrimination

Video resource:
Everyday sexism
Laura Bates

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