It would be nice if, to address racism and sexism, we could simply call on people to change their subconscious prejudicial impulses. Unfortunately, despite the hype around “implicit bias” as a psychological tool for improving workplace diversity, it doesn’t work that way. As Quartz has previously reported, there are numerous methodological flaws with the most commonly used implicit-bias test, and relying on current techniques meant to address implicit bias doesn’t product strong long-term results. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on addressing bias altogether, argued Neil Lewis, professor of communication and social behavior at Cornell University, at this year’s Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference.
Lewis said that when he first saw evidence showing that implicit-bias training doesn’t create long-lasting effects, he found it depressing. He originally planned to research implicit bias in graduate school, then changed his mind when he realized the effects of trainings based on the concept don’t last long, he says. “But over time I’ve come to view it as an important and useful reminder of a broader lesson from the behavioral sciences: people are highly influenced by their environment,” he wrote in the notes for his talk, which he emailed to Quartz. “The reasons they have those biases in the first place is because they’ve learned them from the contexts they’ve been embedded in—contexts that are rich with social scripts (norms) that influence our thoughts, feelings, and behavior.”
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