Implicit Bias: Research and Critical Analysis
KATE FIALKOWSKI 0:01
Hi, this is Kate Fialkowski with the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. This is being recorded for the Dischange 20 symposium online edition, we're discussing the theme combating implicit bias. And this segment asks what the research says. I'm delighted to have on the phone Andy Karpinski, associate professor in psychology and the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Psychology at Temple University. Hey, Andy, thanks for being with us today.
ANDY KARPINSKI 0:34
Glad to be here.
Kathryn Fialkowski 0:35
You know, I understand you are a social psychologist.
What does that mean?
ANDY KARPINSKI 0:43
Yeah. So, you know, when I, when I first started, started studying psychology in college, I didn't even know social psychology existed. I thought psychology was the treatment and disorders and nearly the study of that social psychology is very different.
It's really the same study of how we are similar how we're all the same, and how we are all affected by the environment in the context in similar way, it's also kind of flips that, you know, rather than looking at differences in personality, and how some subsets are different it looks at, you know, how do we behave in similar ways, similar contexts?
KATE FIALKOWSKI 1:20
Ah, that's really interesting. So, our symposium theme on implicit bias, is this something that is a similarity or a disimilarity in people?
ANDY KARPINSKI 1:37
Well, we all have implicit bias. Some of us might have different implicit biases than others, but we all have the propensity for implicit bias, and for those implicit biases to affect our behavior. So I think I would say that's something that's in common of all of us.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 1:55
Well, maybe we should back up a second for our listeners. And have you define what is implicit bias?
ANDY KARPINSKI 2:05
It's a good question. So my bias in general is that when I behave toward a person or group of people differently than another person or a group of people. And then implicit bias would be that sort of differential behavior toward an individual or group of individuals that we're not aware of that we're not conscious of engaging in that differential pattern of behavior.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 2:32
So if it is unconscious, and we're not really aware of it, then we can't recognize our own implicit biases?
ANDY KARPINSKI 2:43
Yeah, I think that's a that's an important point about implicit bias, that I I can certainly recognize that I'm biased in many ways I might treat you know, Republicans and Democrats differently, might treat you know, a person who has been convicted of a felony different from a person who's not. I might be okay with that. But implicit biases are different and that they're I'm thinking about members of groups differently or individuals differently and treating them differently without the awareness that I'm treating them differently.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 3:16
Wow, this is really difficult.
ANDY KARPINSKI 3:22
Yes, I mean, I can't I can't just sit back and introspect and think about... normally like, let me just think this through. I can't think through implicit bias, because I don't even know the bias exists.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 3:35
So I have read that I can know if I have some sort of implicit bias because I've read about this thing called the Harvard Implicit Association test. So take this test and then learn what my biases and then bias not an implicit bias, I don't know.
ANDY KARPINSKI 3:55
So they are they've got they've got a website up there, go ahed and Google implicit Association tests, you can go to their website and take it and find out what it's about. It's probably the most common measure of implicit bias. It's certainly not the only measure of implicit bias, but it's the most common measure.
So it's been around for about 20 years now. And what it tends to show is that we have a lot of biases. That a lot of the work that is looked at, you know, race and gender biases. And those biases show up on these Implicit Association test, but we're looking at disability bias, and weight bias, age biases those also show up as well. And one interesting thing about a lot of these biases is that even for the members of the biased group, they tend to also show this bias as well.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 4:54
The same bias?
ANDY KARPINSKI 4:55
So people who have so as a society To show a biased favor of or against overweight individuals, overweight individual show that bias as well, on the Implicit Association test.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 5:10
So you're a since you're a social psychologist, I mean, what does that really say about potentially I'm not a social psychologist, are we internalizing these kind of mass messages?
ANDY KARPINSKI 5:32
Internalizing might be a bit strong, but we're all exposed to those messages. We live in a culture that is biased. We get biased messages about race and gender and disability and age and weight. And regardless of whether we believe those to be true or not, we receive them we processe them. And so they're stored in our brain. And then that certain times, those associations that knowledge can come forward and influence our cognition and influence our behavior.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 6:05
So even though it's an implicit bias, there is a link between bias and behavior?
ANDY KARPINSKI 6:13
So, yes, there is. I think there's been a lot of research that's shown that people engage in, in bias behavior without without being aware of it.
We've done a lot of work in my lab, we look more at race and gender biases that we've looked at, like behavioral outcomes, like there's a common paradigm known as the shooter bias. That's when you present people with a target and if the person has a gun, shoot, if you have a cell phone, you don't shoot, and you know that bias. People are much more faster to shoot an African American individual, than a white individual, and they make more mistakes with an African American individual than a white individual. We find this in all populations and all populations that we've studied students, general population, African Americans, police officers, this is a relatively common bias. And that's a real behavior. That's not just a hypothetical measure.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 7:24
I'm sitting here digesting the implications of this, which are tremendous across our society.
ANDY KARPINSKI 7:35
So these biases can and do affect our behavior. I think the question is, what can we do about it?
KATE FIALKOWSKI 7:43
Yeah, that is that's a, that's a really important question. I mean, can they change can our biases change? Can we get rid of a bias?
ANDY KARPINSKI 7:58
I think the answer is yes, but it's hard. And the first step, if it's an implicit bias, it's a bias you may not know that you have, or even if you know that you have it, you may not know how it's affecting your behavior. So the first step is to acknowledge that you have the bias or come to an understanding that you have the bias, this bias. Once you have that, I think, you know, just kind of, you know, thinking about your own thoughts isn't going to help you very much.
I think that's one technique that might be useful is really looking at your own behavior. How do I behave in different contexts? Rather than looking at what do I, how do I think I should behave in different contexts. And sometimes by looking at our own behavior we can come to recognize Hmm, I didn't think I had a bias but when I look at how I behave, I'm behaving differently in certain contexts or towards certain people. In a way that I didn't think I was going to.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 9:03
So, um, I'm going to ask the reverse question. If we change our behavior, can we change our? Does it change our biases?
ANDY KARPINSKI 9:14
I think yes. So that's kind of like the do good, be good type perspective. If I, if I, you know, rather than focusing on what I want, like thinking about my changing my thoughts, let's change our behavior. And if we change our behavior, we're going to change the associations that we've been exposed to.
If these implicit biases are a result of the information that we're exposed to from our culture. Our culture is not uniform. And so you know, if you know you got some if there's a TV show or a radio show that you listen to that, you know has sexist jokes, and you think that they're offensive. Stop watching it, you're no longer exposed to it. We have some control over the information that that gets presented to us. So by putting ourselves in different contexts in different situations where we can adjust those associations that we're exposed to, we can slowly over time start to change our implicit biases.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 10:23
Wow, I'm sitting here thinking about all the things I should stop looking at on social media.
ANDY KARPINSKI 10:30
That's right, it's very easy to get sucked down the wormhole on social media.
But yes, I think that we can be proactive in, you know, in in choosing what sort of where do we get our news. You know, do we watch television or do we what newspapers do we read and those now there's pros and cons to that. Living in a bubble isn't necessarily the greatest idea also, but preventing yourself from being exposed to these biased messages. Those bias messages and whether you endorse them or not believe them to be true or not. Our brains are very good at picking up patterns and associations in the world. And those patterns and associations have the potential to influence our behavior.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 11:16
So is most of your work Andy in the United States?
ANDY KARPINSKI 11:20
Yes, yes. I haven't done any international work. There is a lot of international work that's done. That's been done on an implicit bias. So this is not just a Western phenomena, United States phenomena and upper class phenomena. It's a property of people.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 11:43
It's a human phenomenon.
ANDY KARPINSKI 11:45
It's a human phenomenon. Yes, that's a good way to put it.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 11:50
So I wonder um, if you have any recommendations for people on materials? Where you could be good, credible sources to think more about this?
ANDY KARPINSKI 12:07
Yeah, well, one of the the resources that you provided with the symposium, the link from the American Bar Association, about implicit bias, disability bias, I think is extremely thorough, and very, very informative. It gives a lot of very specific recommendations about how we can change our unconscious biases. And one of those that I'd like to highlight is perspective taking.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 12:32
What does that mean?
ANDY KARPINSKI 12:34
So it's not thinking through your own mind and trying to not think through your own eyes and your own mind and your own background. But what does this other person I'm interacting with? What's their experience? What would, what would it be like to be that person in this context? And that can give us a whole new set of associations, a whole new view of the situation and make us realize that's the way I view the world. In the way I experience the world isn't necessarily the way that other people view and experience the world.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 13:06
So listen more and talk less?
ANDY KARPINSKI 13:10
Listen more, you know, listen more. But there's also, you know, I said before about, you know, you can't really introspect. Here's a way in which you can kind of change your thinking, you know, put yourself in it put your mind in a different context. And you might be surprised at the thought that you have about those in that situation.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 13:32
Andy, what about exposure to other people? I know, you know, in the disability world since the 1970s, we've been talking about inclusion. And you know, there's this idea that by being more inclusive, of it, that will have its own effect. That it will have its own positive effect. Is that true? If we if we surround ourselves with different people will that? Is that enough?
ANDY KARPINSKI 14:13
Yes. But. There's always a caveat. Generally, being exposed to different people is positive. But by being exposed to people of different groups and people who are different from you, that can also if you've got negative stereotypes that can also lead you to be to reinforce those negative stereotypes. So, so you need to I think the research on exposure to people of different groups of contact, so that it needs to be in a continent a situation where people are viewed as equals. That were there some norms in the in that situation where people should be treated equally.
And it really the best sort of contact and exposure to different people. The most positive effects occur when you're working toward a common goal. So here it's not this is not a person, I don't care about this person's disability this person's age, this person's ability, this person's race or gender, that here we need to work together to to solve a problem to do something to accomplish a goal. And that's where you really see the positive effects of contact.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 15:29
Well, I mean, that is a great stepping off point. We're almost out of time. And speaking of working together, these are unprecedented times that weren't sure. And so you know, this symposium is continuing, but it's under such a changed world than we anticipated. So do you have any thoughts? Given the times that we're in,
ANDY KARPINSKI 16:02
Yeah, just it's, we tend to think that our culture changes very slow and that our culture is what it is. But I think this has shown us that our society can change very rapidly. And the world today is very different. of the world one month ago, I had, no I have no idea that I would be teaching all my classes online, one month ago, so so rapid, rapid change can happen. And, you know, just the way that, you know, we've harnessed this rapid change in our society to help us to prevent the spread of this virus.
What would it be like if we decided that implicit bias was a national emergency? What sort of things could we do as a country to harness the power of everyone to get everyone to work together to go to work against implicit bias? That's a very interesting thought experiment. How would we, how would we rearrange things but to maybe more, maybe more To the concrete, you know, here we are dealing with this. We're all kind of in semi isolation, social distancing. You know, I do think that here is a case where, you know, as I mentioned before, that if we can all come together and agree that we've got a common goal. We don't want this virus to spread, that that can that can serve to help bring us together and bring some unity to people in the country. And this is in many ways, a divided country in recent years.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 17:31
So really the time to come together. We... This is a period of unification.
ANDY KARPINSKI 17:42
I hope that's what that's one of the positive there's, there's obviously many negative things that are happening right now. I hope that that's one of the positive things that come out of this a lot.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 17:51
Yes. Well, I want to say thank you so much. Also for giving us some detailed and specific information on the research that's happening in implicit bias, the definition of implicit bias, some of the tools and resources available, and, and for letting us know that there is this thing called a social psychologist.
ANDY KARPINSKI 18:18
Yes, even that, is important. I just like to everyone, to people who are there. You know, if you want, we went over some of the research in very general terms, but please feel free to contact me give me an email. If you have more specific questions, I'd be happy to follow up with any of our, our listeners, more participants, and provide some more explicit information.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 18:42
Thanks for mentioning that Andy. And for everyone who's listening. There is a link for Andy's faculty page at Temple University. So you would have a way to follow up and to get additional information.
ANDY KARPINSKI 18:56
That's great. I look forward to hearing from some of you.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 18:59
Well, thank you So much for your time today. And I really, really, really appreciate it.
ANDY KARPINSKI 19:07
You're welcome. Thanks, Kate. Stay safe and be well.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 19:11
You as well. Andy. Thank you.
ANDY KARPINSKI 19:13
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Andy Karpinski, Associate Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies, College of Liberal Arts, Temple University. More about Andy
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