Implicit Bias – Yup, I’m Talking About You!

You are biased.

So am I.

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

We all categorize things — it’s how we sort our world and make sense of it. Good things over here — bad things over there. Similar things in this box — other things in another box. Even Sesame Street encourages us to sort our world.

We also categorize people. Yes, we do. All of us. Sometimes we assign them a description without knowing enough. And, if you think you don’t do that — you’re wrong.

  • We read a news article about a person and consciously assign intent or bias
  • We see someone speeding down the road and label them as dangerous and thoughtless
  • We dislike someone’s decision so, therefore, that person ‘just doesn’t get it’

We all do it. But, why?

  • It’s easier to assign intent to others which then justifies our own bias — the other person is either in-line with our own thinking and an ally, or their intent is misguided and they are an adversary.
  • By assigning intent without inquiring about it, we limit the amount of time we need to put into understanding someone.
Actually … It’s All of Us

Pick a topic, especially one that has a pretty clear line of delineation — global warming, poverty, systemic racism are three that come to mind. All three have some pretty polarizing viewpoints. It’s easier to align oneself with those who are similar to yourself and also assign blame or ignorance to those who are not.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s take a look at social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I wrote a Nov 2020 blog post about how social media platforms have algorithms that use Artificial Intelligence to find persons who are aligned with your way of thinking. Your clicks, swipes and pauses all help shape the opinions you see on these platforms. Social media builds your belief that many others think just like you — it’s a main reason why the platforms are so popular.

“But, that’s not me. I’m an objective person.”

(More on Page 2)

Social Media and Reality

This blog is about Social Media. But, before I delve into that topic I’d like to start by talking about something else — PERCEPTION and it’s incredible importance in our daily lives and our reality.

Perception overrules Facts every time. Facts represent the truth, but perception represents our actual reality. We remember facts because we process them through our senses (touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing). We filter them through these senses and, by doing so, actually interpret them from our past experiences — every time. And while we may want to believe that we are not being judgmental — that we are always being objective in our thinking and conversation — we are not. Our ‘objectivity’ is actually subjective in nature because we have created meaning out of what we have observed. This meaning is created when we link our present experiences to the previous — our past understandings, emotions and feelings.

Personal lens: The filter that we all use that interprets our environment. It shapes our perception of events through our own experiences, emotions and beliefs.

It is our personal lens that creates our unique reality — our perception of the world around us. It is why two people can ‘see’ the same thing yet come away with two completely different understandings of what they ‘saw’. For example, courts rely less on eye witnesses than they do on things like DNA evidence, because DNA doesn’t require a filter to exist.

People are shaped by their perceptions and are frankly not that reliable in their objectivity.

The Importance of Being Disconnected

I treasure the time I have to myself — whether it’s an early morning walk along a seawall, in the local trails with my dog or in my car listening to music from the 70s. I do some of my best thinking when I’m alone.

But the daily reality is that my world (and other people’s as well) is filled with perpetual connection — email, texts, phone calls, social media as well as lots of personal meetings. And while I feel very lucky in both my personal and professional lives, they sometimes appear perpetually busy with connections.

Literally Thousands of Social Media Apps

Mobile devices have allowed us to stay connected in ways not possible even a few years ago. In particular, social media has led the way in interconnectedness — Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, Pinterest — they all allow for wonderful virtual connection and communication. Do a quick internet search and you find that there are literally THOUSANDS of social media apps designed for any number of connections — professional collaboration, sharing of personal events, dating, buying & selling, career exploration, etc.

Let me stop here for a minute to share a story about a recent meeting I had with one of the big educational minds in our world …