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Implicit Bias in Society and Schools.

It's a term that has been discussed in multiple contexts: during the first presidential debate, as well as a concern among educators, amidst questions about law enforcement actions and more.

Implicit bias is when deep-seeded attitudes and stereotypes impact our actions, our decisions and our understanding, without us being conscious that it's happening. This subconscious bias can impact how we feel about people based on race, ethnicity, appearance, age and other factors, according to the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University.

"We all have them," said Walter Gilliam, lead researcher of a recent Yale University study examining preschool teacher implicit biases, to NPR. "Implicit biases are a natural process by which we take information, and we judge people on the basis of generalizations regarding that information. We all do it."

What the Study Involved

In the Yale study, preschool teachers were found to look for disruptive behavior, expecting it to appear.

The research involved 135 pre-K teachers at a conference that Gilliam and his team recruited to watch a few short videos. Each video included four children: a black boy and girl and a white boy and girl.

As the teachers watched the videos, eye-scan technology tracked where and what they were watching. And what the educators didn't know going into the experiment is that no challenging behavior was displayed, even though researchers told them it may or may not be there.

The ultimate goal of the research was to determine when teachers expected bad behavior, who did they watch?

"What we found was exactly what we expected based on the rates at which children are expelled from preschool programs," Gilliam told NPR. "Teachers looked more at the black children than the white children, and they looked specifically more at the African-American boy."

The statistics match up. In fact, black children are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended from preschool than white children, according to research from the U.S. Department of Education. In other words, black children comprise about 19 percent of all preschoolers, but nearly half of preschoolers who get suspended.

One reason that number is so high, Gilliam suggested, is that teachers spend more time focused on their black students, expecting bad behavior. "If you look for something in one place, that's the only place you can typically find it," he said to NPR.

Sources:, 9/28/16; kirwaninstitute., 2015;

A Bias Cleanse

Takeaway point #5 states that we can unlearn some of our implicit biases through "debiasing techniques." The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University and MTV have created seven-day bias cleanses focused on race and gender to help users "begin to de-bias yourself."

The online tool sends users simple exercises or thought-starters "to help you recognize and chip away at your biases." Consider giving it a try at:

Five Key Characteristics of Implicit Biases

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University asserts that there are five markers of implicit biases.

1. "Implicit biases are pervasive. Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges.

2. Implicit and explicit biases are related but distinct mental constructs. They are not mutually exclusive and may even reinforce each other.

3. The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse.

4. We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own ingroup, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our ingroup.

5. Implicit biases are malleable. Our brains are incredibly complex, and the implicit associations that we have formed can be gradually unlearned through a variety of debiasing techniques."

Source:, 2015
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Title Annotation:Special Report
Publication:Curriculum Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2016
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