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Implicit Bias

Implicit Bias

There’s a word you swore you would never use, yet, in a fit of passion it escapes your lips. You’re watching a sports event screaming at the television – the word is heard in a room which suddenly goes quiet. There’s an opinion you swore you would never express, an idea you would never share, a thought which would hurt someone you love dearly. “Where did it come from, why you, why now?” You’re uncomfortable, embarrassed, and ashamed. You are a victim of implicit bias, also known as implicit social cognition. According to the Kirwan Institute, “Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. Biases which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Residing deep in the subconscious they are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness. Implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.”

The mental activity beneath our consciousness is the motivational unconscious. Family, teachers, coaches, neighbors, churches, and environments can subconsciously embed thoughts, ideas, attitudes, concepts, and beliefs. Faiths and dogmas you might never have practiced, or have turned from in adulthood, can subconsciously influence retorts and behaviors beyond any awareness. “Sigmund Freud popularized the idea that desire and motivations bubble in our unconscious mind and influence our behavior. Thus, the motivational unconscious can be made conscious even though we are not generally aware of the unconscious mental activity.” The counselors and therapists of Improving Lives Counseling Services assess and treats repressive tendencies and emotional reactivity and understands and probes the unconscious mind. In “Understanding Implicit Bias”, the Kirwan Institute of Ohio State University list key characteristics of implicit biases: Implicit biases are pervasive, are related but distinct mental constructs we hold, but do not necessarily align with declared beliefs or stances we would endorse; are malleable and generally tend to favor our own group. Race, culture, class, education, sexual identity, socio-economics, residence, and religion are victim to implicit biases. Found in extended family, spouses, children, friends, doctors, judges, law enforcement, and classrooms, in people you know, in people you respect, the phenomenon creates and reinforces barriers.

In today’s politically, socially, and economically divided societies, we find implicit biases rooted in the core of communities. Despite living in a global, diverse society, students can attend school in front of a computer from kindergarten through twelfth grade. They can be home-schooled, attend charter schools, church, and faith-based schools. They can attend a private institution where all the students look and think the way they do – from pre-school through grade school giving the best education while [unintendingly] entrenching them in implicit biases. Why does it matter? Is implicit bias real? Many psychologists and psychiatrists question the existence of implicit bias, however, thanks to neuroscience and psychoanalysis, modern psychiatry recognizes, examines, and assesses motivational unconsciousness.

Denying negative emotions, suppressing feelings in confrontational circumstances, and refusing to acknowledge the unconscious mind can lead to physical and mental illnesses, depression, and behavior disorders. Those negative thoughts, troublesome dreams, and periods of self-loathing, low-self-esteem, and not recognizing who you are or who you’ve become, could be the unconscious mind triggering implicit biases. Feeling tired and run-down, avoiding friends and social gatherings, sitting alone, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, fear, anxiety, and guilt can be symptoms of a mental conflict or disorder. Improving Lives Counseling Services can help. Our team of professionals can break the effects of implicit and explicit biases and make the motivational unconscious conscious. Knowing and aligning with who you are can be enlightening. We offer individual, couples, family, group, and video sessions.