Unconscious bias

How deep does unconscious bias go?

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I was watching a training video about unconscious bias and the gist of it was that we should not allow gender, race, disability, or any of the other protected categories influence the way we view other people.

This sounds all well and good - and what one should aspire to as human beings - but research on gender and nationality highlights evidence that nationality and gender can actually influence people's behaviours. For example, nationality can influence the way people behave in meetings - the French for example tend not to follow an agenda and will tend to have a more 'telling' approach to people than would be acceptable in Anglo-cultures - and research on gender shows that it can influence the kind of leadership styles that people adopt. For example, many women prefer a team-based approach to leadership and many men a more 'command and control' style and so people's reactions to the behaviours that result from this are mediated by gender.

In this way, research shows that it is not uncommon for women to favour women as leaders when they mainifest this team-based leadership and for men to favour men when they manifest the 'command and control' style. So, gender is influencing our attitudes in ways that are more subtle than the 'don't let gender influence you' approach would suggest. My own research shows how gender can influence our reactions in the visual sphere and you can read more about this in my popular book, just published, 'Why men like straight lines and women like polka dots' - see http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/gloria+moss/why+men+like+straight+lines+and+women+like+polka+dots/11210896/ You can also read more about this on my website - www.gloriamoss.co.uk and in an article I wrote last month for Equal Opportunities Review on unconscious bias in selection and indirect discrimination.

Would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this complex area!


Gloria Moss

Professor, Buckinghamshire New University