Implicit-Bias Remedies: Treating Discriminatory Bias as a Public-Health Problem

This article was originally published here

Psychol Sci Public Interest. 2022 May;23(1):7-40. doi: 10.1177/15291006211070781.


Accumulated findings from studies in which implicit-bias measures correlate with discriminatory judgment and behavior have led many social scientists to conclude that implicit biases play a causal role in racial and other discrimination. In turn, that belief has promoted and sustained two lines of work to develop remedies: (a) individual treatment interventions expected to weaken or eradicate implicit biases and (b) group-administered training programs to overcome biases generally, including implicit biases. Our review of research on these two types of sought remedies finds that they lack established methods that durably diminish implicit biases and have not reproducibly reduced discriminatory consequences of implicit (or other) biases. That disappointing conclusion prompted our turn to strategies based on methods that have been successful in the domain of public health. Preventive measures are designed to disable the path from implicit biases to discriminatory outcomes. Disparity-finding methods aim to discover disparities that sometimes have obvious fixes, or that at least suggest where responsibility should reside for developing a fix. Disparity-finding methods have the advantage of being useful in remediation not only for implicit biases but also systemic biases. For both of these categories of bias, causes of discriminatory outcomes are understood as residing in large part outside the conscious awareness of individual actors. We conclude with recommendations to guide organizations that wish to deal with biases for which they have not yet found solutions.

PMID:35587951 | PMC:PMC9121529 | DOI:10.1177/15291006211070781