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Unconscious Bias

β€œUnconscious (or implicit, hidden) biases are mental processes that operate outside of our consciousness, intentional awareness, or control” (UBC Equity & Diversity Glossary of Terms).

Unconscious bias is

  • based on automatic associations
  • beyond consciousness
  • a predictor of behaviour

All humans have biases. While we can work hard to reduce them, our biases are sometimes increased by feeling stressed, ambiguous situations, or when we lack time / are doing too many tasks at once. In these instances, we may inadvertently β€˜fall back on’ stored associations to help us navigate a situation. Lack of data or examples to counter the stereotyped images we may have absorbed may also increase our bias.

This section provides resources that explore the nature of bias and its impact, how we an reduce our biases, and what we can do to support students in examining their unconscious biases.

Exploring Our Unconscious Biases

In this 18-minute Ted Talk Verna Myers explores How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them. β€œOur biases can be dangerous, even deadly β€” as we’ve seen in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, in Staten Island, New York. Diversity advocate Vernā Myers looks closely at some of the subconscious attitudes we hold toward out-groups. She makes a plea to all people: Acknowledge your biases. Then move toward, not away from, the groups that make you uncomfortable. In a funny, impassioned, important talk, she shows us how.”


The University of Victoria has various useful resources and links that explore unconscious bias – UVic Unconscious Bias


Resources on Unconscious Bias to Use with Students

The University of British Columbia has several useful resources, including:

  • Equity & Inclusion Glossary of Terms – making sure everyone is β€˜on the same page’ when discussing concepts, is important. This list provides brief definitions of key terms such as β€˜unconscious bias,’ β€˜cultural safety’ and IBPOC
  • Resources for Respectful Debate – This is a list of guidelines that can be used with students to support discussion of unconscious bias, where it is likely different experiences and opinions will be expressed

All That We Share – or embedded below.

This 3-minute video can be used as an introduction to a discussion on biases, prejudice and what we might do to explore our common humanity.


An Introduction to Unconscious Bias –

This 3 Β½ minute animated video provides a brief definition of unconscious bias, where it comes from and how it can trip us up.


Resource: from University of California:

TedX Talk: The human brain is a remarkable achievement in evolution. Unfortunately, the brain activity that kept the human species alive for millions of years is the same brain activity that keeps us from achieving equality today. Author, speaker and CEO, Valerie Alexander, explains how the human brain instinctively reacts when encountering the unexpected, like saber-toothed tigers or female tech execs, and proposes that if we have the courage to examine our own behavior when faced with the unfamiliar, we can take control of our expectations, and by doing so, change the world.