Unconscious Bias

Information on Unconscious Bias and why it's important to be recognised

What is unconscious bias?

The tendency of us as humans to act in ways that are prompted by a range of assumptions and biases that we are not aware of.   This can include decisions or actions that we are not consciously aware of, as well as hidden influences on decisions and actions that we believe are rational and based on objective un-biased evidence and experience.  Unconscious bias can be present in organisations and groups as well as influencing the behaviours and decisions made by individuals.  

We strongly encourage you to discover your own unconscious bias by taking the University's online training course in Learn, which you can access via the link below:

Unconscious Bias training in Learn

This University of Bristol TedEx talk helps you understand more about unconscious bias and some of the frightening impacts it can have.

Unconscious Bias

Why is it important?

There are two key risks associated with unconscious bias.   

When judgements and decisions are influenced by unconscious bias we are, in effect, using an incomplete and inaccurate evidence base.  This will lead to poor decisions.   

Secondly, unconscious bias (particularly when linked to gender, ethnicity, disability or some other characteristic) has unfair and negative consequences for the subjects of this bias.  This includes unfair treatment and poorer outcomes (e.g. in health, education and employment).  Unconscious bias can also result in microagressions and discrimination.

Find out more about microaggressions in our resources 

Learn about Implicit Bias

3 minute video. What is implicit bias? NYT/POV's Saleem Reshamwala unscrews the lid on the unfair effects of our subconscious.

What can you do about it?

The most important thing you can do is recognise that unconscious bias is likely to be influencing your actions, behaviours and decisions – as individuals and in groups and organisations.   

Take time to explore the material provided on this site, reflect on your decision making (conscious and unconscious) and consider the steps you can take to minimise the consequences of unconscious bias in different situations and contexts. 

One of the most important things we can do is avoid making rushed or instinctive decisions (e.g. around recruitment or assessing others).  Think carefully about what could be used to support objective judgements and decisions.   And avoid making decisions likely to be influenced by unconscious bias (e.g. recruitment) when tired or stressed.