Imagine believing in one thing, but your brain being uncooperative and believing a completely opposite thing whithout you even realising it. Changing that belief would be like fighting an invisible enemy insede of your own head. But this is something that actually happens when you think about implicit biases.
Greenwald and Krieger (2006) describe implicit bias as “unconscious mental processes that has substantial bearing on discrimination” (p. 946). This means that sometimes, despite consciously believing in the right thing, people may exhibit discriminatory practices, such as more severe punishments for African-American students for misconduct (Staats, 2014). The concept is explained in a more detailed manner by Staats (2016), showing the division between the Explicit/Implicit cognition as two separate systems which can differ within a single individual.
There is a growing body of research on the topic of implicit bias, and some scientists are looking into the possible influence of such bias on educational outcomes of certain groups of students. A system of measuring implicit biases has been devised, called the Implicit Associations Test or IAT, which draws upon your “response latency (i.e., reaction time)” (Staats, 2016, p. 35) to certain visual cues or, in other words, the relative speed of your responses to several tasks (Greenwald & Krieger, 2006). There are various IAT types such as Race (Black-White, Native American, Asian American, Skin-tone), Disability, Sexuality, Religion, Weight, Gender, Age, etc. (Project Implicit, 2011). But the ones most researched in connection with education are Race (Staats, 2016), Weight (Lynagh, Cliff, & Morgan, 2015), Gender (Jackson, Hillard, & Schneider, 2013).
To improve the quality of education overall, the influence of implicit biases needs to be taken into account and tackled in future teachers’ training. As Staats (2014) emphasizes “raising awareness of the existence of unconscious biases is a vital first step of working toward their negation” (p. 1). This shows the need to raise awareness of educators on this issue.
As our brains are the most powerful tools at our disposal, I believe that it is better to use them to achieve mutual cooperation between our explicit beliefs and the implicit beliefs held by our cognition.
Greenwald, A. G., & Krieger, L. H. (2017). Implicit bias: Scientific foundations. California Law Review, 94(4), 945–967. https://doi.org/10.2307/20439056
Jackson, S. M., Hillard, A. L., & Schneider, T. R. (2014). Using implicit bias training to improve attitudes toward women in STEM. Social Psychology of Education, 17(3), 419–438. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-014-9259-5
Lynagh, M., Cliff, K., & Morgan, P. J. (2015). Attitudes and beliefs of nonspecialist and specialist trainee health and physical education teachers toward obese children: Evidence for “Anti-Fat” bias. Journal of School Health, 85(9), 595–603. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12287
Project Implicit. (2011). Retrieved from https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/selectatest.html
Staats, C. (2016). Understanding implicit bias. Education Digest, 82(1), 29–38. Retrieved from http://www.library.umaine.edu/auth/EZProxy/test/authej.asp?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=117510113&site=ehost-live
Staats, C. (2014). Federal Government Recognizes the Role of Implicit Bias in School Discipline Disparities. Kirwan Institute Analysis. Retrieved from http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/ki-implicit-bias-discipline-cs02.pdf
Picture credit: Implicit bias illustrated: “Our Kind of People” by Bayeté Ross Smith https://manchesterinklink.com/implicit-bias-role-plays-national-conversation-around-race-policing/