Implicit Bias Training: California Attempts To Address Feelings And Biases People Do Not Know They Have

Frank Kollman
Frank Kollman

Confirmation bias is a real thing. People give more weight to information that supports their beliefs than information than contradicts them.  You should recognize this.

Stereotypes are real things, too. Most are based on characteristics that many folks in a particular group might have, but that characteristic becomes a stereotype when people think everyone in the group has that characteristic and exaggerates it at the same time.  In an effort to be politically correct, and given my age, race, and gender, I will use “old white men” as an example. Some believe old white men are stupid, rigid, extreme, selfish, and nasty, and consequently, they are responsible for all the world’s current problems.  Most rational thinkers know that you do not have to be old, white, or male to be stupid, rigid, extreme, selfish, or nasty.

California has enacted legislation that will require lawyers, judges, and doctors to take “implicit bias training” every two years to reduce “unconscious biases” they have based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, ethnic group identification, age, mental disability, physical disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, and sexual orientation.  Is the next step to allow employees to prove discrimination based on implicit biases that an employer might have based on psychological testing and monitoring?  While there is much that might be gained by training everyone to recognize their implicit biases, delving into the psychology of human thought and biases may just be taking political correctness into the realm of codified law.

After I read about this law, I tracked down a couple of tests to determine if I had biases of which I was not aware. The tests were so transparent that I could easily manipulate the outcome. Of course I know I should not assume that the angry man in Middle Eastern garb at the airport is a terrorist, and I should not assume that the white-haired elderly lady is not a terrorist. Then again, is that an implicit bias or a rational conclusion based on information and experience?  Another question I have is will the training also make people recognize their confirmation bias in favor of people like themselves. I wonder how old white men will be addressed in this training.  Not well, I suppose. I guess that’s my implicit bias against people obsessed with implicit biases.

Originally, I thought this would be more a comedy piece than a serious one. Now, I am just worried because the government is behind it. Every time the government tells me that I have to do something because it’s for my own good, I immediately think – perhaps because of my biases – that the government is run by insane narcissists who want to impose their own view of the world on me.  I have a very difficult time believing that politicians and government employees are the best examples of the kind of person I want to be, and therefore the best teachers.

Be aware of your biases and prejudices.  Try to understand circumstances where those biases and prejudices are affecting your judgment and make the necessary adjustments.  And be wary of politicians telling you how they can make you a better person.

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