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Diversity & Inclusion

Unconscious bias

Unconscious bias refers to the biases we have of which we are not in conscious control. These biases occur automatically, triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations based on our background, cultural environment and our experiences.

There is a growing body of research which suggests unconscious biases influence key decisions in the workplace and are responsible for some of the enduring inequalities that are evident today. One example is a study by Moss-Racusin et al (2012) which examined the assessment of applications to science faculties from students applying for the position of laboratory manager. The same application was used 127 times and randomly assigned either a female (64 times) or male (63 times) name. Selectors rated the male applicant as significantly more hireable than the female applicant. They also chose a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant. The gender of the selector did not affect responses.

Below you will find a range of resources on unconscious bias which you may find of interest:

  • Implicit Association Tests
    – Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virgina and the University of Washington have created a range of Implicit Association Tests (IATs), to measure unconscious bias.  The tests investigate thoughts and feelings that exist outside of our conscious awareness and control.

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Diversity & Inclusion Team
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James Clerk Maxwell Building
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Tel 020 7848 3767

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