Implicit Bias Training Exercises: What You Should Know

Both in the news and in our personal lives, we’ve all heard stories about workplace bias. Every human being, including your company’s employees, has biases. When implicit bias influences business decisions, it can have a significant impact on your company’s diversity and culture.

The term “implicit bias” refers to the implicit feelings and attitudes we have toward specific people or groups. These emotions are firmly ingrained in us, influencing how we see the world and the people we meet. While implicit bias is unintentional and not motivated by malice, it can cause us to stereotype or condemn someone without even recognizing it. Implicit prejudice may affect every area of a business, from recruiting and promotions to tiny day-to-day encounters, if it goes unchecked.

Exercises for Implicit Bias Training

Given below are some activities for interactive implicit bias exercises that you may use as part of your training program to engage individuals with implicit prejudice.

  • The Tag Game

Few people want to admit to being biased in their personal or professional lives. However, we must first realize and accept that we all have prejudices and misconceptions, both conscious and implicit. The crucial thing is that we acknowledge that we have them and that they can influence our decisions. This exercise is excellent for providing a secure, non-judgmental environment in which people may learn about their biases and how they influence their behavior and responses. It’s a fantastic icebreaker for implicit bias.

Participants in the Tag Game wear a range of different colored, shaped, and sized badges on their upper bodies. After that, the group is urged to break up into smaller groups. At this point, no discussion is permitted, and there are no instructions as to what criteria should be utilized to construct these groups. After the groups have been formed, instruct the participants to break up and form fresh groups four to six times more. Rather than looking for coworkers with distinct badges, you’ll often discover that groupings are established based on the same shapes and colors. Notably, the group rarely forms these categories based on factors other than badges.

  • The Circle of Trust

This is another great, non-confrontational exercise for people to evaluate their implicit bias as well as their peers’ behaviors and prejudices. Each participant jots down the names or initials of ten persons they can trust who aren’t related to them. The host then calls out several categories and classifications, including age, gender, accent, native language, occupation, ethnicities, and so on, as well as each group. Each participant puts a tick next to each individual on the list who has that trait with them, for example, women put a tick next to everyone on their list who is female.

Following that, the group is urged to review their list and discuss it with the rest of the group. In most situations, the group rapidly realizes how little diversity is represented on their list of trusted persons – that their Circle of Trust consists primarily of people with similar backgrounds and qualities. This implicit bias training exercise lays the groundwork for an open and progressive debate about how we develop group relationships, how these bonds can unnecessarily exclude others, and what actions we can take to extend our trust to people from other backgrounds and life experiences. 

  • Implicit Association Test

The Implicit Association Test(IAT) is a tried-and-true method for increasing awareness of one’s unconscious bias. Individuals’ reaction times to a series of phrases or pictures presented on a computer screen are measured in this exam. For example, if the word on the screen is a ‘female name’ or a ‘weak term’ (e.g., delicate, little, flower), the individual may be asked to enter a specific key, but if the word is a ‘male name’ or a ‘strong word,’ the individual may be asked to type a different key (e.g., powerful, mighty, robust). The average reaction time for a correct response is recorded after this exercise is repeated several times. 

The regulations are then adjusted so that the test taker must hit one key if the term is a ‘female name’ or a ‘strong word,’ and another key if the word is a ‘male name’ or a ‘weak word.’ Because gender stereotypes correlate feminine names with weak words and male names with strong words, reaction times on the first test are faster than reaction times on the second test, which involves a mismatch of stereotypical categories. Differential reaction times indicate implicit (unconscious) gender bias. Additionally, the bigger the difference in reaction times between the two tests, the more implicit stereotyped associations are present.

When the IAT is used as a tool for intervention, it is critical that the facilitator understands the IAT’s mechanisms and adequately explains to participants that bias is unavoidable as a result of social conditioning and cognitive processes—the results do not show evidence of prejudice or make accusations of prejudice. Rather, the facilitator should emphasize that the exercise is being done to bring attention to the existence of hidden bias and that, despite our best intentions, we all have hidden biases that appear in subtle and unconscious ways.

  • The trusted 10

This is an excellent method to get people to think in a safe environment. Prepare a handout that includes the following information:

Column 1: Trusted 10

Column 2: Gender

Column 3: Age

Column 4: Ethnicity

Column 5: Education

Column 6: Sexual orientation

Column 7: Disability

Column 8: Other

Then, with the exception of the trusted 10 section, fold over all of the columns and ask participants to write down 10 persons they truly trust who are not relatives.

After everyone has finished, they can unfold the paper and mark each of the trusted ten against each section anyway they wish.

Tell them they don’t have to say anything specific if they don’t want to, but instead have a discussion about who they have an affinity for and why.

  • Café Society

One of the biases listed below, or any others you want to discuss, should be written on a flip chart each.

  • Beauty bias
  • Gender bias
  • Affinity bias
  • Conformity bias
  • Halo
  • Horns

Divide your participants into small groups and assign each one to a flip chart. Give them three minutes to remark on what this bias would look like and any techniques for avoiding it. After 3 minutes, have them move clockwise to the next bias and add to it. Ask them to return to their initial flip chart and summarise their bias for a few minutes before presenting it to the group one at a time.

Implementing Effective Implicit Bias Training

Organizations, for the most part, seek out implicit bias training with the best of intentions. However, implicit bias training is relatively hard since it challenges long-held ideas and compels people to analyze and admit their own biases. As a result, sloppy unconscious bias training can come out as accusatory or out of touch. Allowing your implicit bias training to cause more harm than good is not a smart idea. Some ways to implement effective implicit bias training are listed below:

  1. Choose the right facilitator to lead your training 
  2. Plan your training over an extended period of time
  3. Make awareness a top priority
  4. Take action to address implicit bias
  5. Allow for a range of scheduling options
  6. Interaction takes priority over lecture outline next steps

To gain more awareness about implicit bias training exercises, contact Impactly now.

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