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  • 99.9% of what our brains process is unconscious.

  • And without a doubt, somewhere in there are biases.

  • Biases about women in the workplace.

  • Biases about people of different races.

  • And all these biases are things

  • companies like Google, Starbucks, and even Insider

  • have been trying to train out of their workforce for years.

  • But is it working?

  • Calvin Lai: We don't know. We really don't know.

  • Narrator: And a lot of that uncertainty

  • has to do with our understanding

  • of implicit bias in general.

  • So, what do we know?

  • Implicit biases are stereotypes

  • that we form about certain groups of people.

  • Every day, your amygdala processes

  • and categorizes billions of stimuli.

  • And because of this, almost all of it

  • is happening automatically.

  • Every experience you have, every bit of socialization,

  • every piece of media is processed and stored

  • by a stereotyping neural network,

  • creating a database of shortcuts

  • that your brain can pull from.

  • And while it's helpful to see a big metal box with wheels

  • and immediately know it's a car,

  • categorizing people in the same way is harmful.

  • And that's where the implicit association test comes in.

  • The IAT is part of many implicit bias trainings.

  • It's supposed to establish a baseline

  • for each participant's unconscious biases by measuring them.

  • The problem is, we don't actually know if it does that.

  • Lai: I think that the implicit association test

  • is an imperfect measure.

  • It's been incredibly useful for researchers

  • to understand how the mind works

  • in ways that are not self-reported.

  • But if you want to use it as a diagnostic measure

  • of how racist or sexist you are or something like that,

  • it's not gonna tell you that.

  • Narrator: A psychological test is usually measured

  • in two ways: reliability and validity.

  • Test-retest reliability means that people should be able

  • to take the test over and over again

  • and get nearly the same results each time.

  • A perfect reliability score is a one,

  • but a test is solid if it scores at least 0.7.

  • But studies have put the race IAT's reliability at 0.44

  • and the IAT overall at 0.5, well below acceptable standards.

  • This means when a person takes the test multiple times,

  • they get notably different results.

  • And experts can't say for sure

  • whether that's because the test is a bad tool

  • or if the concept of implicit bias actually fluctuates.

  • Lai: So, one of the theoretical ambiguities right now

  • about the nature of implicit bias

  • is the extent to which it reflects something deep

  • about a personality or an enduring attitude

  • versus something that is more fickle,

  • something more like an emotional state or a mood.

  • Narrator: Either way, this discrepancy

  • makes it difficult to rely on the results of the test.

  • Which leads us to validity:

  • Does the test actually predict what it says it does?

  • The IAT was intended to and is currently used in a way

  • that is supposed to link implicit bias to behaviors.

  • At least four different meta-analyses

  • between 2007 and 2015 looked at this exact thing.

  • And all of them suggest that the IAT

  • doesn't really predict behaviors that well.

  • Lai: It turns out that predicting discrimination

  • is just difficult, full stop.

  • Narrator: But even if the IAT was conclusively valid

  • and reliable, implicit bias trainings still have a problem:

  • Acknowledging your bias does not mean

  • you're gonna act less racist.

  • At least one study found that recognizing a bias

  • is a necessary step to getting rid of it,

  • but it won't solve the problem on its own.

  • Lai: You want to make people feel enough motivation,

  • maybe something like enough guilt or shame

  • to be actually motivated to do something

  • about the problem of bias or discrimination.

  • Narrator: And some studies suggest that the trainings

  • can even make the problem worse.

  • They have the potential to dredge up stereotypes

  • and make a person act on them more.

  • So, how do we make sure that

  • implicit bias trainings are effective?

  • Standardizing the programs is a start.

  • Lai: I've seen ones where the IAT is never mentioned,

  • let alone used in any way.

  • I've seen ones where they put a measurement of bias

  • in the middle of the thing,

  • and they do it as a group activity.

  • Some of them are just purely just a collection

  • of PowerPoint slides with nothing else attached.

  • Narrator: One 2016 meta-analysis

  • of over 40 years of diversity-training data

  • found that the programs were successful

  • if they focused on skill development

  • and were conducted over a long period of time.

  • Many trainings end up being reactionary,

  • half-day or shorter events that end up

  • being more performative than impactful.

  • It's like using a Band-Aid to treat a broken bone

  • instead of a comprehensive treatment plan.

  • Lai: Exactly!

  • You might not be so certain

  • that any individual initiative works,

  • but we know that, generally,

  • when firms or companies have more of them,

  • their diversity and inclusion outcomes tend to be better.

  • Narrator: Harvard Business Review

  • found that a combination of things

  • like college recruitment, mentoring programs,

  • self-managed teams, and task forces

  • have increased diversity.

  • Diversity task forces alone

  • boosted Black women in management by 23%.

  • Instead of focusing on the thoughts of individual employees,

  • these tactics address the bigger, systemic issues

  • that make bias a problem in the first place.

  • So, just because we don't know for sure

  • if implicit bias trainings work doesn't mean they can't.

  • We should be asking ourselves

  • what we do know we can do differently

  • in order to ensure lasting change.

  • I just want to be very clear that the information

  • we're presenting here has to do with implicit bias trainings

  • and their effect on diversity

  • and inclusion within companies.

  • Bias is very much real, and it's something

  • that we as individuals need to continue

  • being aware of, checking, and unlearning.

  • So, please, continue the conversation in the comments below

  • and in real life, and subscribe for more "Deep Science."

99.9% of what our brains process is unconscious.

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What Everyone Gets Wrong About Implicit Bias Trainings

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/10/24
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