While there are numerous implicit/unconscious bias training programs, there is a need for more research on which strategies actually change unconscious bias and behaviors. Dr. Bentley L. Gibson is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Georgia Highlands College and founder of The Bias Adjuster, LLC. Dr. Gibson has conducted research on how implicit race bias develops, and the best strategies to reduce it. She has found that some strategies are more effective than others at promoting positive attitudes about members of negatively stereotyped groups (i.e. African Americans). Dr. Gibson has found that for some people, receiving messages about the marginalization and oppression of African Americans can have a negative impact on implicit bias. This type of information highlights that African Americans are members of a low-status social group, and can in return strengthen the negative value associated with them on implicit/unconscious measures of bias.
Discussing marginalization and oppression is a staple of most implicit/unconscious bias training programs, but there is no research showing that this strategy effectively changes implicit/unconscious bias. For this reason, Dr. Gibson conducted a pilot study on the impact of watching a short video that was used in a large company’s implicit/unconscious bias training. The video highlighted African Americans’ personal experiences with racial discrimination. A sample of 15 participants (7 European American, 6 African American, 2 Latino American) were examined. Participants’ implicit race bias was measured using the Race Implicit Association Test before and after watching the video. Results revealed that while there was a change in implicit race bias, it mainly took place in the African American participants. In contrast, European American participants implicit pro-White bias either remained the same or increased in strength after watching the video. Increasing implicit pro-White bias is never the goal. This pilot study suggests that implicit/unconscious bias training can be effective, but can not be treated as a one-size-fits-all solution. Our society needs more evidence-based, standardized implicit/unconscious bias trainings with strategies that have the potential to reduce bias in all types of people.
The Bias Adjuster’s workshops are customized based on the characteristics (race/ethnicity, personality, interests, spiritual/religious beliefs, careers, etc.) of the trainees. The workshops are designed using Dr. Gibson’s and others’ research on effective bias reducing strategies. Research is conducted in order to pinpoint which strategies work for a variety of people, and which strategies are needed for specific types of individuals. One of the staples of The Bias Adjuster’s unconscious bias workshops is providing participants with new, positive information that counteracts negative attitudes about African Americans. This is often lacking and instead trainees are given a new spin on information they already knew about African Americans being the victims of discrimination. Participants in the video pilot study were also asked to rate how new the information presented in the video was to them on a scale of 1(“I was very aware of this information before the video”) to 5 (“I was very unaware of this information before the video”). The mean score for this question was 1.53, indicating that the video did not lead participants to critically think about new information. In some cases, participants even reported the video caused negative emotions. This is concerning based on previous research showing that causing negative emotions can have a negative impact on implicit bias. In order to truly see changes in individuals, organizations and our society as a whole, we need more evidence-based implicit/unconscious bias trainings that: a) lead to positive emotions and b) provide numerous positive, counter-stereotypical examples of and experiences with African Americans.
Check out the P&G video below that motivates viewers to counteract/challenge their racial stereotypes.