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What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Diversity and Unconscious Bias

John Rossheim
Publication date:
August 28, 2019
Article Summary: 

Unconscious bias has been scientifically proven to be neurologically unavoidable and, unfortunately, has devastating effects on the promotion of diversity and inclusion. Despite efforts to change destructive behaviors, the results of many training programs will be limited or may even backfire. However, some people will benefit from diversity training as they are motivated to change their behavior. Although there are limitations to changing people's nature, employers can improve anti-bias training by implementing organizational structures and processes that encourage diversity and inclusion. Unconscious bias affects how we think and behave by dividing humans into categories of "like me" and "not like me". An individual's first impressions of people are based on perceptions accumulated from birth, and the best way to tackle unconscious bias is to raise awareness and teach people to be aware of it when they are experiencing it. There is substantial evidence that diversity training often doesn't work, and the three most popular interventions make firms less diverse, not more. However, voluntary diversity training that emphasizes the positives of diversity and inclusion may be more effective, avoiding backlash against being told what not to do. Two tactics that are likely to succeed in diversity and inclusion training are by helping people understand why their brain does what it does and providing checklists about what can happen. The goals of training should be realistic and aimed only at changing behaviors, not changing beliefs.


Unconscious bias, diversity, inclusion, anti-bias training, neuroscience.

Source Citation: 
John Rossheim
What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Diversity and Unconscious Bias
August 28, 2019
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