What is unconscious bias ?

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

Unconscious bias is an extremely interesting subject to talk about. But what is it, exactly ? That's what we'll be talking about today. Feel free to tell us in a comment what you think. I'd love some feedback.


First, let's think about the word "unconscious". According to dictionary.com , the word unconscious means "not conscious; without awareness, sensation, or cognition."

Okay, so that's the first part of the phrase. But what about the second ?

The word "bias" means "a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned."


Interesting. So this must mean that the phrase "unconscious bias" must mean an unreasoned preference, but without even knowing that one has this preference.

So as you can see, unconscious bias can be dangerous. Really dangerous. Especially when it is towards people.


Allow me to demonstrate a few examples. Let's imagine that to people are applying for a job. There's a cisgender, straight, white man. Let's call him Chris. And there's a transgender, biracial, gay woman. Let's call her Anna. It's sad and painful, but more than half of the male employers will choose Chris. This dosen't mean that Chris has done anything wrong or is worth being angry with. He can't help being white, cisgender, straight, or male !


Now let's talk about the employer. His name is Antonio. He also happens to be white, cisgender, male, and straight. He, on the other hand, has been a bit annoying. He just dosen't even realize. With years of sexist, racist, and homophobic education, these silly ideas have been instilled in him. It isn't his fault. It's his parents. And their parents. And their parents. What Antonio has to do is to make sure that if he has children, he won't educate them in this way.


But there's a twist. What if Chris genuinely is better for the job than Anna, putting gender aside ? Anna may accuse Antonio of discrimination. But she has to be careful. She has to think, what if he actually just was better for the job than me ?


That is why detecting unconscious bias is like walking on eggshells. With needles. And a glass vase. So be careful.

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