Unlearning Unconscious Bias

There’s no shame in being wrong, only in refusing to learn

When was the last time a stereotype popped up in your mind uninvited? If you are like most people, it happens all the time.

We all carry certain biases. Cognitive biases are learned stereotypes that are deeply ingrained within our beliefs and have the potential to affect our behaviour.

Generalization are a normal way of processing information. When bombarded with information from all sides, our brains cannot process the information at the same rate it is coming in. Often we have to process some of that information on a very superficial level. So, we match it to existing templates — patterns that we have already learned from past experiences. These are the cognitive biases that we fall back on.

Unconscious or implicit biases are usually biases we carry that we are not aware of. These biases affect our decisions and actions, especially actions that are taken hastily.

Explicit bias, on the other hand, would be if you chose you prefer something and voluntarily pick that favourite.

How Is Unconscious Bias Harmful?

While unconscious bias may seem innocent, it sets people up to overgeneralize. This can sometimes lead to discrimination even when people feel they are being fair.

Learning to recognize and "unlearning" our unconscious biases is not just critical, but ongoing work. A few simple habits can help us be more mindful of our unconscious biases and help us unlearn the patterns.

How To Unlearn Unconscious Bias?

1. Recognise your unconscious biases

Ask yourself, “Why did I think the way I think?” “Why did I react this way?”

The first step is to question how you are thinking and why you are reacting to a situation the way you are. Try to find out if your reaction is based on an impartial opinion that applies to the situation

2. Figure out where your bias is coming from

Look within you to answer the questions you asked yourself.

Once you have pin pointed bias in your behaviour, its time to figure out where the biases are coming from. Explore why you are looking at things a certain way.

The people, , ideas, and in many cases, experiences, we are exposed to throughout our life influence how we look at the world. It is important to understand what is influencing our outlook in order to realize if we are operating on our unconscious bias.

3. Be mindful of your biases

Now that you have identified your biases, be mindful of them before acting.

A little bit of mindfulness goes a long way. Keep your biases in mind as you approach others and voice your opinions. Think about the alternative of what your initial reaction of a situation can be: what would happen if I didn’t react this way?

4. Be open to learning

There’s no shame in being wrong as long as you are willing to learn.

It can be an uncomfortable feeling to realize that our actions and views have a negative impact on those around us. Don’t let that discourage you from learning. Take it up as a challenge to do something to change how you think.

Unlearning unconscious bias is continuous work. Willingness to learn to do better is the best way to unlearn your unconscious biases.