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Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is a social stereotype about certain groups of people formed by an individual external of their own conscious awareness. Learn about unconscious biases with this starter Qstream microlearning course.

Category: Diversity and Inclusion

Industry: General

Questions: 16

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Unconscious Bias

Navigate through the Qstream questions below to preview. Each challenge is designed following Qstream’s best practices for maximum knowledge reinforcement and engagement. This Qstream is free for clients to use as a starting point.

1. Defining Unconscious Bias  >
2. Filters >
3. Vaccination Discussion >
4. Job Roles Bias >
5. Generational Bias >
6. Mitigating a Bias >
7. Stereotypes >
8. Explicit vs. Implicit Bias >
9. Affinity Bias >
10. Gender Bias  >
11. Conformity Bias >
12. Halo Effect >
13. What is Empathy? >
14. Lack of Empathy >
15. Cognitive Empathy  >
16. Emotional Empathy  >

Follow the interactions on each screen to answer Qstream questions as a Participant.

What is “unconscious bias”?

Answer explanation:
While bias, in general, can be conscious and something we are aware of, unconscious bias (or implicit bias) is something that is harder to spot because it happens in our unconscious, and thus we may not be aware of it happening until after the fact.

A good way to catch unconscious bias is to ask yourself when a thought comes up about a person or a group of people, would I have this same reaction if this person(s) was a different race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, and/or religion? If the answer is no then this is a sign you should explore how your unconscious bias is impacting how you perceive others.

Which of the following perception filters influences business behavior and the reception of messages?

Answer explanation:
Perception is the awareness, understanding, comprehension, or interpretation of something and is developed through the senses.

A perceptual filter refers to the process of interpreting new information in a manner that aligns with a person’s prior cultural norms and experiences.

The perceptual filter of feelings and emotions can influence how we receive messages and our business behaviors. A tough week may make someone more reactive to confrontations which can alter their attitude towards the importance of certain decisions.

There are four main types of perceptual filters:

1. Biology/Genetic
2. Language/Culture
3. Beliefs/Values
4. Feelings/Emotions

Marci is talking with her friend and colleague Alexis about the COVID-19 vaccination. Alexis tells Marci that those who get vaccinated are followers and she refuses to do so. Marci is vaccinated and disagrees with Alexis.

Marci should handle the conversation by doing which of the following?

Answer explanation:
When having a conversation with someone where the two of you don’t see eye to eye, it is always best to understand the perception of the other person. Understanding their point of view can help initiate a healthy dialogue and avoid conflict.

For Marci to suggest that Alexis is wrong (because their beliefs do not align) and she should get vaccinated is not the best approach and can come across as being judgmental. It’s important to ask open questions and listen in order to understand more about someone’s point of view.

An office manager applied for an open role in the Human Resources department. She recently completed her bachelor’s in People Analytics, considers herself outgoing, and thought it would be a great idea to transition into HR to work directly with people within the organization.

Unfortunately, she was not offered the position but was told she would be great for an open position in the data analytics department because of her degree. She declined the opportunity to interview with the data analytics manager because she believes analysts are introverts that don’t like to work with other people.

The office manager can eliminate her bias about data analysts by doing which of the following?

Answer explanation:
In this scenario, the office manager has a bias toward data analysts. This bias can be based on her personal experiences, media, or other sources. If the office manager wants to eliminate her bias, she must first admit her bias is real. This can be hard for some people. Someone admitting they have a bias can seem as though they are admitting to being a bad person. But admitting you have a bias is a good thing. After realizing the bias, the office manager can educate herself on data analysts and analytic teams through conversations, books, videos, scholarly articles, and other reliable media.

Susan has been with the same organization for over 25 years. She is an asset and delivers top-notch work. She has recently been paired to work on a project with Andrew, a 30-something-year-old with four years of experience in the field.

While working together, Susan comments that millennials are less committed to work and want to be rewarded without putting in the effort. Andrew tries to present a different perspective to Susan, but she refuses to change her mind.

Which of the following methods can Andrew use to work with Susan, who has admitted her bias?

Answer explanation:
In this scenario, Susan has admitted she has a bias toward millennials. For Andrew to effectively work with Susan, he must try to understand the origin of her bias. Knowing this may not change Susan's bias, but it will give Andrew a better perspective.

In addition to knowing the origin of the bias, Andrew should acknowledge Susan's bias exists and respect it. It can be counterproductive and exhausting to eliminate someone's bias, especially if they have accepted their bias and have no intentions to change it.

While we typically cannot refuse to work with someone who has a bias, if a bias becomes discrimination, it may be helpful to involve Human Resources.

True or false? Mitigating a bias involves accepting it.

Answer explanation:
Mitigating a bias involves lessening or decreasing it, not eliminating it.

When a person mitigates a bias, they admit the bias does exist. Though the bias is admitted, it does not mean it is meant to be harmful. It can be a bias based on personal values or morals.

For example, if a person is biased against gender-neutral bathrooms in the workplace but mitigates the bias, they will respect the choice to have gender-neutral bathrooms but will not agree with it. The person may try to understand the purpose of gender-neutral bathrooms but may not change their viewpoint on the topic.

Some of Javier’s co-workers are surprised he does not speak Spanish because he is Mexican American.

Javier’s co-workers assuming that all Mexicans’ first language is Spanish is an example of which of the following?

Answer explanation:
A stereotype is a thought and oversimplification idea of a person or group. It can be based on personal experiences and is spread among widely held people. A stereotype can be either positive or negative.

In this scenario, some of Javier’s co-workers stereotype him because he is Mexican American. However, it is an oversimplification idea that all Mexican Americans speak Spanish.

Regarding the other options:

• Preference is selecting someone or something over another or others—the state of being preferred.

• Bias is an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment. An unfair act or policy stems from discrimination.

• Prejudice is a conceived judgment not based on personal experiences or reasoning. Prejudice is a feeling or attitude about a person or a group of people.

True or false? Implicit bias is expressed directly and operates consciously.

Answer explanation:
When a person expresses an explicit bias, they are aware of the bias. Their acts are deliberate and done consciously. An example of this is publicly spewing hate speech on social media.

Implicit bias, on the other hand, is expressed unconsciously. When an implicit bias is expressed, the person is not aware of it, and it is unintentional. Implicit bias typically comes from a stereotype or assumption. It can be displayed through favoritism or discrimination.

A company is growing exponentially and has added 10 new hires recently. Their Human Resources Director has announced the new hires in a company newsletter and has included their names, college alma mater, and roles. This reveals that 70% of the new hires attended the same college as the CEO. Some employees have commented or complained about this.

Which of the following actions can be taken to improve this situation?

Answer explanation:
The type of bias in this scenario is called affinity bias. Also known as the similarity bias, the affinity bias describes our natural tendency to get along with or gravitate toward people who are most like us.

The best way to alleviate this bias in this scenario is to remove barriers that may disqualify anyone who may not have attended the same college as the CEO.

Rachel is interested in a promotion that involves 75% domestic and international travel. She shares her aspirations with a colleague who responds, “Aren’t you a mother? How will you have time to travel when you have kids at home?”

Which of the following actions should Rachel consider?

Answer explanation:
In this scenario, the colleague is exhibiting gender bias. Gender bias is the tendency to favor one gender over another. Additionally, gender bias exists when a person faces unfair disadvantages (or benefits from unearned advantages) because of their gender.

Here the colleague questions if a mother should travel to work if her children are still at home.

Rachel has two options to remedy this situation:

1. Inform the colleague of their bias.
2. Ask her college why they believe that mothers cannot/should not travel for work.

HR should be involved in the Rachel feels she is discriminated against.

A five-person senior leadership team has received a proposal from one of their department directors for a budget increase and a new staff member. Four members vote no to the proposal, while the fifth wants to vote yes. However, because they do not want to feel excluded, the fifth member votes no.

Which of the following actions could the fifth member take to avoid this outcome?

Answer explanation:
In this scenario, the fifth senior leader member is facing conformity bias.

Conformity bias may occur when we face peer pressure or try to fit into professional or social environments. The fifth member did not want to be excluded, so this stress forced them to vote with the majority. An excellent way to combat this is for the fifth member to stick with their initial vote, explain the reason for their decision, and enlist allies from the group. Though this may not flip the vote to yes, it will eliminate conformity bias from the equation.

Considering that a halo is an imagined sense of glory, the “halo effect” is when:

Answer explanation:
The halo effect is when you are not looking at all of the data available to you and instead, you are just focusing on the positive. For example, you've known Jose for years and he was great in the past, but lately, his work has been slipping. But you keep making excuses saying, “He has always done so well in the past, I am sure he is just having a hard time today” when, in reality, his work has been slipping for months.

The opposite of the halo effect is called the “horns” effect: which is when you focus on something negative and you overlook the positive aspects of a person. For example: In the past, you had one big issue with an employee named Anjali, but you haven’t worked together in a while. After Anjali joins a work team you are part of, you ignore all of the good ideas that she brings to the team, thus hurting the team you are both parts of.

According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, ______, and experiences of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Answer explanation:
There are three types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. It involves listening, being open, and having a sense of understanding.

When implementing diversity, equity, inclusion, or belonging in the workplace having a high level of empathy is beneficial for several reasons:

1. Serving as an ally
An ally is someone who stands up for, champions for, or sponsors a group of people or individuals from a social group different than their own. To be an effective ally, you have to have empathy.

2. Considering the perception of others
Because we work with people from various backgrounds, it is important to understand who they are, where they come from, and how they see the world. Be sure to open and ask questions to understand the other person. The key to understanding is active listening.

3. Managing or alleviating conflict
Conflict is inevitable in the workplace, but when you can empathize with the other person, conflicts can be eliminated or alleviated. You can hear the other person’s point of view even if you do not agree with it or an impasse takes place.

Having empathy can also help with productivity, team morale, and effective communication.

A supervisor has increased their direct report’s workload even though the direct report
has hadn’t yet completed previously assigned tasks. The direct report tells their
supervisor that they are drowning in work and feeling immense stress. The direct report
asks for time off to regroup mentally, but the supervisor denies the request. The
supervisor tells the direct report, “We all have a job to do; we cannot take time off for
that.”

Signs that the supervisor lacks empathy are that they:

Answer explanation:
In the scenario, the direct report has expressed their concerns, and the supervisor is
not showing any signs of empathy. This is evident when the supervisor gives the direct
report more work without knowing the status of their current project. Additionally, the supervisor
ignores the direct report’s cries for help and the need for a mental break.

Further signs of a lack of empathy can include:

1. A lack of close relationships
2. Constant conflicts
3. Constant criticism
4. Inability to admit fault or wrongdoing

If a direct report expresses they are suffering from stress and need time off, a manager
can show empathy by doing the following:

1. Listening to the direct report’s needs
2. Understanding the direct report’s point of view
3. Providing the direct report with the requested time off
4. Placing themselves in the shoes of their direct report
5. Asking open questions
6. Understanding how they are perceived
7. Reassuring the relationship with the direct report.

Which of the following is an example of cognitive empathy?

Answer explanation:
Cognitive empathy is the ability to view the world through someone else's eyes. This type of empathy is referred to as "perspective thinking or "empathic accuracy, and it deals with the mind. With this type of empathy, you are trying to understand what someone is feeling by placing yourself in their shoes without feeling their pain. This can be extremely helpful in the workplace because it will allow managers and leaders to truly understand the perspective of their direct reports by knowing what and how they may feel without feeling the same way.

For sensitive topics, cognitive theory can reduce stress and open the opportunity for dialogue. For example, when the George Floyd murder and trial took place, many organizations held town halls and fireside chats for employees to discuss their emotions and the impact they had on them. Some employees were devastated, while others were not. To demonstrate cognitive empathy, leaders, co-workers, and others should understand the feelings of those impacted by Floyd's murder, even if they do not feel the same pain.

A coworker has a child with severe neurodisability. Because of this, the coworker must take extra time off from work and confides in a teammate that they sometimes get overwhelmed and do not know what to do. The coworker has cried at work while sharing their experiences.

As their teammate, you can show emotional empathy for this coworker by doing which of the following?

Answer explanation:
Though each response is appropriate, they do not all represent emotional empathy. Emotional empathy involves sharing an emotional experience with someone: where
you can feel what the other person is feeling.

Saying nothing or telling the co-worker, “It will be okay,” is sympathy. Sympathy recognizes a person is experiencing something and acknowledges it.

While letting someone vent is helpful for active listening, it does not show a sign of empathy.

What is “unconscious bias”?

Answer explanation:
While bias, in general, can be conscious and something we are aware of, unconscious bias (or implicit bias) is something that is harder to spot because it happens in our unconscious, and thus we may not be aware of it happening until after the fact.

A good way to catch unconscious bias is to ask yourself when a thought comes up about a person or a group of people, would I have this same reaction if this person(s) was a different race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, and/or religion? If the answer is no then this is a sign you should explore how your unconscious bias is impacting how you perceive others.

Which of the following perception filters influences business behavior and the reception of messages?

Answer explanation:
Perception is the awareness, understanding, comprehension, or interpretation of something and is developed through the senses.

A perceptual filter refers to the process of interpreting new information in a manner that aligns with a person’s prior cultural norms and experiences.

The perceptual filter of feelings and emotions can influence how we receive messages and our business behaviors. A tough week may make someone more reactive to confrontations which can alter their attitude towards the importance of certain decisions.

There are four main types of perceptual filters:

1. Biology/Genetic
2. Language/Culture
3. Beliefs/Values
4. Feelings/Emotions

Marci is talking with her friend and colleague Alexis about the COVID-19 vaccination. Alexis tells Marci that those who get vaccinated are followers and she refuses to do so. Marci is vaccinated and disagrees with Alexis.

Marci should handle the conversation by doing which of the following?

Answer explanation:
When having a conversation with someone where the two of you don’t see eye to eye, it is always best to understand the perception of the other person. Understanding their point of view can help initiate a healthy dialogue and avoid conflict.

For Marci to suggest that Alexis is wrong (because their beliefs do not align) and she should get vaccinated is not the best approach and can come across as being judgmental. It’s important to ask open questions and listen in order to understand more about someone’s point of view.

An office manager applied for an open role in the Human Resources department. She recently completed her bachelor’s in People Analytics, considers herself outgoing, and thought it would be a great idea to transition into HR to work directly with people within the organization.

Unfortunately, she was not offered the position but was told she would be great for an open position in the data analytics department because of her degree. She declined the opportunity to interview with the data analytics manager because she believes analysts are introverts that don’t like to work with other people.

The office manager can eliminate her bias about data analysts by doing which of the following?

Answer explanation:
In this scenario, the office manager has a bias toward data analysts. This bias can be based on her personal experiences, media, or other sources. If the office manager wants to eliminate her bias, she must first admit her bias is real. This can be hard for some people. Someone admitting they have a bias can seem as though they are admitting to being a bad person. But admitting you have a bias is a good thing. After realizing the bias, the office manager can educate herself on data analysts and analytic teams through conversations, books, videos, scholarly articles, and other reliable media.

Susan has been with the same organization for over 25 years. She is an asset and delivers top-notch work. She has recently been paired to work on a project with Andrew, a 30-something-year-old with four years of experience in the field.

While working together, Susan comments that millennials are less committed to work and want to be rewarded without putting in the effort. Andrew tries to present a different perspective to Susan, but she refuses to change her mind.

Which of the following methods can Andrew use to work with Susan, who has admitted her bias?

Answer explanation:
In this scenario, Susan has admitted she has a bias toward millennials. For Andrew to effectively work with Susan, he must try to understand the origin of her bias. Knowing this may not change Susan's bias, but it will give Andrew a better perspective.

In addition to knowing the origin of the bias, Andrew should acknowledge Susan's bias exists and respect it. It can be counterproductive and exhausting to eliminate someone's bias, especially if they have accepted their bias and have no intentions to change it.

While we typically cannot refuse to work with someone who has a bias, if a bias becomes discrimination, it may be helpful to involve Human Resources.

True or false? Mitigating a bias involves accepting it.

Answer explanation:
Mitigating a bias involves lessening or decreasing it, not eliminating it.

When a person mitigates a bias, they admit the bias does exist. Though the bias is admitted, it does not mean it is meant to be harmful. It can be a bias based on personal values or morals.

For example, if a person is biased against gender-neutral bathrooms in the workplace but mitigates the bias, they will respect the choice to have gender-neutral bathrooms but will not agree with it. The person may try to understand the purpose of gender-neutral bathrooms but may not change their viewpoint on the topic.

Some of Javier’s co-workers are surprised he does not speak Spanish because he is Mexican American.

Javier’s co-workers assuming that all Mexicans’ first language is Spanish is an example of which of the following?

Answer explanation:
A stereotype is a thought and oversimplification idea of a person or group. It can be based on personal experiences and is spread among widely held people. A stereotype can be either positive or negative.

In this scenario, some of Javier’s co-workers stereotype him because he is Mexican American. However, it is an oversimplification idea that all Mexican Americans speak Spanish.

Regarding the other options:

• Preference is selecting someone or something over another or others—the state of being preferred.

• Bias is an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment. An unfair act or policy stems from discrimination.

• Prejudice is a conceived judgment not based on personal experiences or reasoning. Prejudice is a feeling or attitude about a person or a group of people.

True or false? Implicit bias is expressed directly and operates consciously.

Answer explanation:
When a person expresses an explicit bias, they are aware of the bias. Their acts are deliberate and done consciously. An example of this is publicly spewing hate speech on social media.

Implicit bias, on the other hand, is expressed unconsciously. When an implicit bias is expressed, the person is not aware of it, and it is unintentional. Implicit bias typically comes from a stereotype or assumption. It can be displayed through favoritism or discrimination.

A company is growing exponentially and has added 10 new hires recently. Their Human Resources Director has announced the new hires in a company newsletter and has included their names, college alma mater, and roles. This reveals that 70% of the new hires attended the same college as the CEO. Some employees have commented or complained about this.

Which of the following actions can be taken to improve this situation?

Answer explanation:
The type of bias in this scenario is called affinity bias. Also known as the similarity bias, the affinity bias describes our natural tendency to get along with or gravitate toward people who are most like us.

The best way to alleviate this bias in this scenario is to remove barriers that may disqualify anyone who may not have attended the same college as the CEO.

Rachel is interested in a promotion that involves 75% domestic and international travel. She shares her aspirations with a colleague who responds, “Aren’t you a mother? How will you have time to travel when you have kids at home?”

Which of the following actions should Rachel consider?

Answer explanation:
In this scenario, the colleague is exhibiting gender bias. Gender bias is the tendency to favor one gender over another. Additionally, gender bias exists when a person faces unfair disadvantages (or benefits from unearned advantages) because of their gender.

Here the colleague questions if a mother should travel to work if her children are still at home.

Rachel has two options to remedy this situation:

1. Inform the colleague of their bias.
2. Ask her college why they believe that mothers cannot/should not travel for work.

HR should be involved in the Rachel feels she is discriminated against.

A five-person senior leadership team has received a proposal from one of their department directors for a budget increase and a new staff member. Four members vote no to the proposal, while the fifth wants to vote yes. However, because they do not want to feel excluded, the fifth member votes no.

Which of the following actions could the fifth member take to avoid this outcome?

Answer explanation:
In this scenario, the fifth senior leader member is facing conformity bias.

Conformity bias may occur when we face peer pressure or try to fit into professional or social environments. The fifth member did not want to be excluded, so this stress forced them to vote with the majority. An excellent way to combat this is for the fifth member to stick with their initial vote, explain the reason for their decision, and enlist allies from the group. Though this may not flip the vote to yes, it will eliminate conformity bias from the equation.

Considering that a halo is an imagined sense of glory, the “halo effect” is when:

Answer explanation:
The halo effect is when you are not looking at all of the data available to you and instead, you are just focusing on the positive. For example, you've known Jose for years and he was great in the past, but lately, his work has been slipping. But you keep making excuses saying, “He has always done so well in the past, I am sure he is just having a hard time today” when, in reality, his work has been slipping for months.

The opposite of the halo effect is called the “horns” effect: which is when you focus on something negative and you overlook the positive aspects of a person. For example: In the past, you had one big issue with an employee named Anjali, but you haven’t worked together in a while. After Anjali joins a work team you are part of, you ignore all of the good ideas that she brings to the team, thus hurting the team you are both parts of.

According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, ______, and experiences of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Answer explanation:
There are three types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. It involves listening, being open, and having a sense of understanding.

When implementing diversity, equity, inclusion, or belonging in the workplace having a high level of empathy is beneficial for several reasons:

1. Serving as an ally
An ally is someone who stands up for, champions for, or sponsors a group of people or individuals from a social group different than their own. To be an effective ally, you have to have empathy.

2. Considering the perception of others
Because we work with people from various backgrounds, it is important to understand who they are, where they come from, and how they see the world. Be sure to open and ask questions to understand the other person. The key to understanding is active listening.

3. Managing or alleviating conflict
Conflict is inevitable in the workplace, but when you can empathize with the other person, conflicts can be eliminated or alleviated. You can hear the other person’s point of view even if you do not agree with it or an impasse takes place.

Having empathy can also help with productivity, team morale, and effective communication.

A supervisor has increased their direct report’s workload even though the direct report
has hadn’t yet completed previously assigned tasks. The direct report tells their
supervisor that they are drowning in work and feeling immense stress. The direct report
asks for time off to regroup mentally, but the supervisor denies the request. The
supervisor tells the direct report, “We all have a job to do; we cannot take time off for
that.”

Signs that the supervisor lacks empathy are that they:

Answer explanation:
In the scenario, the direct report has expressed their concerns, and the supervisor is
not showing any signs of empathy. This is evident when the supervisor gives the direct
report more work without knowing the status of their current project. Additionally, the supervisor
ignores the direct report’s cries for help and the need for a mental break.

Further signs of a lack of empathy can include:

1. A lack of close relationships
2. Constant conflicts
3. Constant criticism
4. Inability to admit fault or wrongdoing

If a direct report expresses they are suffering from stress and need time off, a manager
can show empathy by doing the following:

1. Listening to the direct report’s needs
2. Understanding the direct report’s point of view
3. Providing the direct report with the requested time off
4. Placing themselves in the shoes of their direct report
5. Asking open questions
6. Understanding how they are perceived
7. Reassuring the relationship with the direct report.

Which of the following is an example of cognitive empathy?

Answer explanation:
Cognitive empathy is the ability to view the world through someone else's eyes. This type of empathy is referred to as "perspective thinking or "empathic accuracy, and it deals with the mind. With this type of empathy, you are trying to understand what someone is feeling by placing yourself in their shoes without feeling their pain. This can be extremely helpful in the workplace because it will allow managers and leaders to truly understand the perspective of their direct reports by knowing what and how they may feel without feeling the same way.

For sensitive topics, cognitive theory can reduce stress and open the opportunity for dialogue. For example, when the George Floyd murder and trial took place, many organizations held town halls and fireside chats for employees to discuss their emotions and the impact they had on them. Some employees were devastated, while others were not. To demonstrate cognitive empathy, leaders, co-workers, and others should understand the feelings of those impacted by Floyd's murder, even if they do not feel the same pain.

A coworker has a child with severe neurodisability. Because of this, the coworker must take extra time off from work and confides in a teammate that they sometimes get overwhelmed and do not know what to do. The coworker has cried at work while sharing their experiences.

As their teammate, you can show emotional empathy for this coworker by doing which of the following?

Answer explanation:
Though each response is appropriate, they do not all represent emotional empathy. Emotional empathy involves sharing an emotional experience with someone: where
you can feel what the other person is feeling.

Saying nothing or telling the co-worker, “It will be okay,” is sympathy. Sympathy recognizes a person is experiencing something and acknowledges it.

While letting someone vent is helpful for active listening, it does not show a sign of empathy.

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