Introduction to GBA Plus

Why do we have biases and make assumptions?

“If we can’t see a problem, we can’t fix a problem.”

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw

American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory

Let’s dig a little deeper and consider unconscious bias. What is it? Where does it come from? And how does it impact us?

Biases are “shortcuts” that our brains have developed as a result of all of the information that we need to process in a given day. These shortcuts are based on our background, cultural environment and personal experiences,including the influence of families, education, institutions, community and peer groups, as well as broader external influences, like social media.

These shortcuts are created by our unconscious to help us navigate our daily lives by using “mental maps” and patterns to create associations, which help us make quick decisions and assessments. These biases are the filters through which we see the world around us.

These associations are often created without our knowledge – they are created unconsciously. While they help us navigate our lives, some of the associations that our unconscious minds form are incorrect, and impact our judgements, perceptions and interactions. Think of these inaccurate associations as “blind spots”. We all have them, but how do we identify them? Some of the common unconscious biases include gender, religious, racial and dis/ability biases.

This is only an introduction to unconscious bias. Numerous resources exist that will help increase your understanding. Just remember that it is not enough to recognize that you have biases; it is critical that you mitigate for these biases. GBA Plus is one tool in our toolbox to ensure biases do not impact the initiatives we design, develop and deliver.

Think big! Think big! Want to explore your own unconscious biases? Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaborative network of researchers investigating implicit social cognition — thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. Project Implicit is the product of a team of scientists whose research produced new ways of understanding attitudes, stereotypes and other hidden biases that influence perception, judgment, and action. They offer a free test that will help you explore your implicit associations about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other topics!