What is it?
Implicit biases, also called unconscious biases, are attitudes toward or stereotypes about certain groups of people that are made without consciously thinking about them. These biases can influence a person’s behavior and judgment without that person even knowing about it.
Humans often operate on autopilot, using mental shortcuts to make everyday decisions. While this may be efficient, it also can lead to people making decisions that don’t align with their personal values. These cognitive shortcuts can lead to rash decisions and discriminatory behaviors that favor one group over another.
Some biases are hardwired in our brains. For example, in-group bias: favoring one’s own group (based on team, race, religion, or other shared identities) over other groups. Or anchoring bias: being overly influenced by the first piece of information received.
However, people also learn biases from the news media, education systems, family behavior, systemic inequities, community norms, and other sources. These external factors shape and reinforce implicit biases. For example, in YouTube ads, women represent only 36% of speaking time,1 enforcing the idea that men have more valuable things to say than women. And in news and opinion media, there’s a 32% overrepresentation of Black family poverty, perpetuating inaccurate representations of Black communities.2
While implicit bias is not intentional, individuals and institutions must take responsibility and deliberate action to avoid acting on harmful biases.