Composite image with a drawing of a head with a universe inside it on the left and a drawing of a outstretched hand hiding a needle on the right

The science of implicit bias


To truly outsmart implicit bias, we need to understand the science behind it. So what is implicit bias? Where does it come from?

The short answer is that we form associations in our minds, associations that we often don’t consciously know exist yet still impact our conscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

The goal of this set of modules is to outline the history and science of implicit bias. Having this foundation should help both you appreciate the strength of the current scientific evidence and recognize how implicit bias can enter into decisions uninvited.

With this knowledge, we hope you will be able to understand and apply the principles of outsmarting implicit bias in life and at work.

  1. A doctor holding out their hand to shake with a red nail in between their fingers

    Implicit Revolution 1: How We Develop Implicit Bias


    40 years ago, researchers found that patients with amnesia could form new memories… implicitly. This sparked an ongoing revolution in research on the hidden mind.

    Dive deeper

    “[W]here did this idea of implicit bias come from? How can we measure biases that people don’t know they have, or at least are unwilling to endorse openly? And is implicit bias training really enough to address the inequities in our society?” Hear the conversation between psychologists Andy Lutrell and Mahzarin Banaji at Opinion Science.

    “Is there a part of ourselves that we don’t acknowledge, that we don’t even have access to and that might make us ashamed if we encounter it?” NPR’s Invisibilia discusses the implicit revolution further in their episode “The Culture Inside”.

    For a broader overview into the science of our blindspots, check out Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald.

    For a broader introduction to how we think, and where our blindspots are, check out Daniel Kahneman’s NYT Bestseller and Winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award (2012): Thinking, Fast and Slow.

  2. Drawing of three interconnected computers with Earth in the background.

    Implicit Revolution 2: Testing Our Implicit Associations


    In Part 2, we explore the story of a small group of scientists, the test they developed to reveal implicit process of the mind, and how they harnessed the birth of the internet to share it with the world.

    Dive deeper

    Explore the lab websites of Professors Anthony G. Greenwald and Brian Nosek to learn more about their research on the implicit processes of the mind.

    “We provide the first report of long-term change in both implicit and explicit attitudes — measured from the same individual — towards multiple social groups,” Charlesworth said … “implicit attitudes appear, in fact, to be capable of long-term durable change.” From Stephen Johnson’s Big Think article “Americans have become less biased — explicitly and implicitly — since 2004

  3. A woman in front of personality traits, with similar traits connected by lines

    The Implicit Association Test (IAT)


    What implicit biases might exist in your mind? How do they compare with your explicit beliefs? Take the IAT to find out!