What is Unconscious Bias?

An implicit stereotype is the unconscious attribution of particular qualities to a member of a certain social group. Implicit stereotypes are influenced by experience, and are based on learned associations between various qualities and social categories, including race or gender. Individuals’ perceptions and behaviors can be affected by implicit stereotypes, even without the individuals’ intention or awareness. Implicit stereotypes are an aspect of implicit social cognition, the phenomenon that perceptions, attitudes, and stereotypes operate without conscious intention. The existence of implicit stereotypes is supported by a variety of scientific articles in psychological literature. Implicit stereotype were first defined by psychologists Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji in 1995.

Explicit stereotypes are the result of intentional, conscious, and controllable thoughts and beliefs. Explicit stereotypes usually are directed toward a group of people based on what is being perceived. An example of an explicit stereotype would be that all adolescent girls like to play with dolls and makeup.

Implicit stereotypes are associations learned through past experiences. Implicit stereotypes can be activated by the environment, and operate outside of intentional conscious cognition. For example, we can unconsciously stereotype all pitbulls as being dangerous. This stereotype may be associated with one event that we may have seen in the past, but the source of these associations may be misidentified, or even unknown by the individual who holds them, and can persist even when an individual rejects the stereotype explicitly.