#ThursdayThought – Conscious Bias
Unconscious bias, as defined by the University of California, San Francisco is explained as follows:
“Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.”
And while awareness of unconscious bias is creating much-needed steps in understanding our behaviors, we should also look at the other side of the coin.
Conscious, or explicit bias, is the deliberate and intentional bias or marginalizing of an individual or groups of individuals based on perceived differences. Or, as Georgetown University’s National Center for Cultural Competence describes:
“Conscious bias in its extreme is characterized by overt negative behavior that can be expressed through physical and verbal harassment or through more subtle means such as exclusion.”
The behaviors that comprise conscious bias are numerous, and can manifest in many ways such as:
- Assuming ill intent due to one’s social standing or lower level in an organization (“they’re not as educated as me”, “they don’t know what I know as a CFO, CPA, MBA”)
- Preferring one type of person other than another (gender, extrovert vs. introvert, the type of car they drive)
- Treating some people more favorably than others and pronouncing them at every opportunity
- Devaluing and degrading another individual to themselves or to others (publicly or privately, overtly or in a passive-aggressive manner)
- Not listening to someone bring up a legitimate concern regarding someone because the accused is in a higher level position, a friend off hours, or had a rough time previously which causes you to be sympathetic to them
- Believing you are the only one who knows the difference
While both biases are each extremely harmful in the short and long term, the difference is fairly simple.
Unconscious bias is a process throughout our entire lives that we can work on to be continually self-aware and others-aware. It’s the eternal pursuit of becoming better and better as imperfect human beings.
Conscious bias is a behavior that the perpetrator knows well enough that they’re committing. It takes a willing decision to arrest and change, but the process can be fairly quick by thinking fairly and correctly towards all others.
Being self-aware, and not allowing you to deceive yourself, is the only way to root out your biases. The first step, however, is always the conscious bias.