Implicit bias refers to the unconscious attitudes and stereotypes that affect our behavior, actions and decisions towards specific individuals or groups.

What is implicit bias?

The definition of implicit bias is the unconscious and unintentional attitudes and prejudices that we hold about certain people or groups. This bias can influence our judgements and actions towards those people.

The attitudes or beliefs are formed unconsciously about others based on their social identity, including race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.

Unconscious bias is also a term used to define implicit bias, much like hidden bias, unintentional bias, and unaware bias. The terms illustrate how the bias is automatic and involuntary and can influence our perceptions, decisions, and behavior without us being aware, unlike conscious bias.

Implicit bias is rooted in social conditioning, cultural stereotypes, and personal experiences, and can affect everyone, regardless of their conscious values or intentions. 

Implicit stereotype – the most common form of implicit bias

Implicit bias can manifest in various forms, where one of the most common forms is implicit stereotyping.

An implicit stereotype is created when people associate certain characteristics with a particular group based on their social identity alone.

For example, suppose someone has an implicit stereotype about women being less competent than men in science. In that case, they may unconsciously discriminate against women in academic settings – even if it was not their intention to do so.

Implicit bias – scenarios from real-life situations

Unconscious or implicit bias occurs in both personal and professional situations. Below are a few examples of implicit bias scenarios from real-life situations.

Race-based bias in policing

Research shows that African American drivers are more likely to be stopped by police officers than their white peers. 

If the police officer has an implicit bias towards African Americans, it makes the officer more likely to use force or arrest them – even if they are not breaking the law. This can perpetuate systemic racism and injustice. 

Gender-based bias in hiring

Implicit bias can also manifest in the workplace. For instance, a hiring manager who has an unconscious bias towards men and is, therefore, more likely to hire men over women, even if they have the same qualifications.

According to research, gender biases are nearly always present in employment decisions, whether they are implicit or not, leading to a lack of diversity in the workplace.

Age-based bias in healthcare

Another implicit bias scenario is if a healthcare provider has an implicit bias towards older adults and is, therefore, more likely to undertreat them. 

This can perpetuate ageism and discrimination, leading to worse health outcomes and quality of life.

Disability-based bias

Suppose a teacher has an implicit bias towards students with disabilities. In that case, the teacher is more likely to underestimate the student’s potential or give them less challenging assignments, even if they have the same intellectual abilities as other students. The same scenario can also occur in the workplace, where both cases perpetuate ableism and exclusion. 


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