You Can't Be Mad At Your Mind for Having Unconscious Biases

A Bias Transformation Worksheet to Help You Overcome Your Biases

Posted Nov 15, 2017

We all have biases. Whether you are male or female, African-American, Asian-American, Latino, Caucasian, Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, with or without disabilities, etc., we all have preconceived notions and make stereotypical judgments about people. In fact, by the age of five most of us have definite entrenched stereotypes about blacks, women, and other social groups. Why does this still happen?

Purchased by Elizabeth Thornton IStock Photo
Source: Purchased by Elizabeth Thornton IStock Photo

As children, we constantly appraised our environment and formed conclusions about our world. Our background and our experiences, including what we learned in schools, what we watched on TV and what was reported in the media helped form our judgment of and response to other people. For example, if we didn’t see Black or Asian children on our Saturday morning cartoons, we may have assumed that Blacks or Asians were not as popular. If we didn’t see women holding positions of power, we may have concluded that men were smarter than women. If we saw few, if any, Hispanic children at school, we may have judged that they were different. We were just trying to make sense of our world. We were young, and we didn’t have the cognitive ability to evaluate the validity of our assumptions or conclusions. And no matter how progressive our parents might have been, as soon as we walked out the door, we had to confront peer pressure, the media and the social structure that promulgated these stereotypes. As a result, these biases and conclusions that we formed as children became hardwired in our neural networks, dictating our thoughts about, and steering our automatic behavior toward, certain groups of people. What is wired together fires together! As children we had no choice.

You Can be Proud of Yourself for Overcoming Your Biases

Even though we can’t be mind at our minds for having biases, many of us still feel ashamed. We try to deny it or we become defensive about it. We simply don’t like to think of ourselves as being anything other than fair and objective. The good news is that we have the power to change our minds. We have the capacity to choose how we respond to people who do not look like us. Instead of reacting automatically, based on hard-wired stereotypes, we can pause; create the space so that our conscious, unprejudiced beliefs take over. Every time we interrupt our automatic reaction to a person that doesn’t look like us and we choose a difference response, we are actually re-wiring our neural networks. Below is a Bias Transformation Worksheet to help you overcome your biases. 

Instead of being mad at your mind, you can be proud of yourself for transforming your biases and be the fair and objective person that you truly are.

Elizabeth R. Thornton
Source: Elizabeth R. Thornton

Excerpts from: The Objective Leader: How to Leverage the Power of Seeing Things As They Are