Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is a positive or negative mental attitude towards a person, thing or group that is held at an unconscious level. Bias is ordinary; it is not a moral failing. However, biases do have consequences; they disadvantage stereotyped groups.

Psychologists tell us that our unconscious biases are simply down to our natural people preferences. Biologically we are hard-wired to prefer people who look like us, sound like us and share our interests. This is known as social categorisation: a process in which we sort people into groups, a gravitation towards the 'safe' or familiar. In the workplace, this behaviour can lead to a tendency to recruit or favour people in our own image, rather than those who are more diverse. 

We integrate unconscious bias awareness into wider HR initiatives to debias people-related processes themselves, particularly in relation to recruitment, career progression, development, and promotion. Our approach tackles conscious bias and structural bias alongside unconscious bias to disrupt the status quo; this includes tackling everyday exclusions.

What is unconscious bias and why does it matter?  

We might not like to think about it, but the moment we set eyes on someone, we begin to form an impression of them that is based on the colour of their skin, their gender – even their name. This is unconscious bias. We acquire stereotypes throughout our lives: from the people around us, the media, interactions with others and our personal experiences. We are constantly acquiring information that affects our perspective on the world around us, and while we can consciously explore the impact and meaning of these influences, it’s naïve to think we have somehow inoculated ourselves against their power. We seem to be telling ourselves that because we no longer consciously indulge racist or sexist attitudes, they have disappeared. In reality, at a deeper, unconscious level, bias continues to shape our world.

Professor Binna Kandola , Co-founder and Senior Partner, Pearn Kandola 
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