10 Types of Unconscious Bias That Could Be Affecting Your Daily Interactions

Unconscious bias comes in a variety of different forms. If you are considering hiring someone based on a “gut feeling,” in all likelihood, you may well be doing it for all the wrong reasons.

Despite our best efforts, unconscious biases can be incredibly pervasive, creeping in and catching us unaware. From the moment we are born, our psyches are shaped by our environment. We are molded by a constant bombardment of messages, from the opinions of family members to subliminal messages picked up from TV shows and advertising.

Unconscious bias creates scope for conflict and miscommunication

In our daily interactions, we bounce between what we know and what we think we know so often that the line between the two often becomes blurred. Rather than asking someone what they think or how they feel, we often assume, arriving at conclusions that are far wide of the mark.

Each of us makes hundreds of decisions every single day. When we make snap judgments, the decision-making process is strongly influenced by innate biases operating in a parallel world to logical, rational thought processes. Unconscious bias affects every single aspect of the modern workplace, impacting our decisions about recruitment, retention, promotion, performance management, and client relations.

There are 10 general types of unconscious bias, including:

1. Affinity Bias

Affinity bias occurs when we favor a person simply because they share similar experiences, interests, and backgrounds to our own.

2. Conformity Bias

Commonly known as “peer pressure,” conformity bias happens when a person follows the status quo, agreeing with the majority rather than voicing their own opinion.

3. The Halo Effect

This type of bias crops up when a snippet of information about someone, such as the fact that they graduated from an elite college, impresses us so much that we are blinded to their faults.

4. The Horns Effect

The antithesis of the halo effect, the horns effect occurs when we form a negative impression of someone based on a single piece of information, ignoring all of their positive attributes.

5. Gender Bias

Gender bias is favoring one gender over another. It stems directly from deep-seated stereotypes and beliefs about gender roles. For instance, male employees have traditionally received preferential treatment. However, the results of one study suggest that both male and female recruiters were equally guilty of unfairly favoring male job candidates.

6. Ageism

Ageism happens when an individual discriminates against someone purely based on their age. Ageism can manifest itself in a person being spoken to in a patronizing way by someone younger or older than them. Ageism culminates in people being denied opportunities, which impacts various aspects of their life, from their career to their medical care.

7. Nonverbal bias

Nonverbal bias occurs when a person allows nonverbal communication attributes to affect their opinion or decision. Potential triggers include body language, mode of dress, and personal appearance.

8. Beauty bias

Beauty bias is a social behavior where individuals construe physically attractive candidates as more competent, successful, or qualified.

There is no denying that how a person looks can be a huge contributor to how they are treated. Beauty bias, or “lookism,” is not something we tend to discuss very much, but it results in people who do not fit society’s standards of beauty missing out on bonuses, promotions, or even affecting their chances of getting hired in the first place.

According to one Forbes report, beauty translates to between 10 percent and 15 percent higher salaries. Also, good-looking candidates are more likely to be interviewed, hired, or promoted.

9. Name bias

One of the most pervasive unconscious biases in recruitment, name bias occurs when an individual judges people by their name, typically showing a preference for names of Anglo origin.

10. Attribution bias

In general, most of us unconsciously attribute our achievements to skill and hard work and our failures to external factors like plain old “bad luck.”

However, when we look at the accomplishments of others, many of us have the opposite perception. When someone else achieves something impressive, we are more likely to view them as lucky. When they make a mistake, we are more likely to attribute this to their personal failings and poor capabilities. This is attribution bias at play.

Avoiding unconscious bias

To keep unconscious bias from creeping in and clouding our judgments, it is vital to be self-aware.

Also known as “mentalizing” or “theory of the mind,” perspective-taking is a cognitive process that involves mentally stepping into someone else’s shoes to try to understand how their perspective explains their behavior. Perspective-taking enables us to understand each other better, improving communication and connection. We can all improve our perspective-taking by not only pausing to consider the other person’s point of view but actively seeking their opinion.

In summary, to mitigate the risk of unconscious bias affecting your thinking, slow down, avoid assumptions, and explicitly ask questions.

Originally published at https://carltonjames.org on February 25, 2022.




Carlton James is a Director of GBTI and a Consultant Specialist in corporate communications for development

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Carlton James

Carlton James

Carlton James is a Director of GBTI and a Consultant Specialist in corporate communications for development

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