Unconscious Biases

The term “bias” (also “implicit bias” and “unconscious bias”) refers to the unconscious assumptions, beliefs, attitudes and stereotypes that human brains have about different groups. These learned mental short-cuts affect how we perceive and respond to people.

Some key features about unconscious biases:

  • Everyone has them
  • They can be activated within a fraction of a second
  • We can hold biases against our own group
  • We can hold biases that go against our stated beliefs
  • Biases are generally shared within social groups, though people also have biases favouring people who share their identities
  • Biases are persistent, but can be changed with attention and work

Unconscious biases prevent us from seeing fairly and accurately the information or the people in front of us. Much research shows that unconscious biases systematically disadvantage already disadvantaged people, and provide un-earned advantages to those already advantaged. As a result of these impacts, unconscious biases negatively affect our ability to identify and hire the best candidates.

At UVic, we are working to increase understanding of the actions and impacts of unconscious biases, and to establish processes and education that will reduce their impact within all stages of employment.

Training materials on unconscious bias

Online resources

Some studies on unconscious bias