Challenges in Teaching Implicit Bias

Hi everyone,

In my presentation on Monday, I will discuss challenges in teaching implicit bias to a class of diverse undergraduates. For a preparation, please read pp. 16-17 and 70-72 (Appendix A) of State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2014 ( and skim the Rutgers Philosophy Department’s page on implicit bias ( These readings explain the features of implicit bias and give some real-world examples.

See you on Monday!



3 thoughts on “Challenges in Teaching Implicit Bias

  1. Ping-Yuan Wang says:

    Thank you, Yoichi, for the interesting reading and great discussion.

    Everyone: I am glad that “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from Avenue Q came up in our discussion today. If you are not familiar with the musical, here are a couple of video clips:

    1) Broadway original cast (lower audio and video quality):
    2) Performance by a different cast with slightly better audio and video quality:



  2. Thank you! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one thinking it. Where I grew up, racism is almost an open joke: white Catholics breed like rabbits, Asians of all types are bad drivers, white girls are dumb (think Clueless, the movie), etc. African-Americans in my area tend to be poor, so the AA students I saw in my classes were the *smart* kids. When I moved to Atlanta and found real deep hatred-level racism, I was rather shocked. We’d always joked and teased and I grew up fairly sheltered. The LA riots over Rodney King were a strange concept to me.
    Personally, I think of implicit bias as merely a product of my kaleidoscope of the world. Being aware of it in myself was good, but what changed how I view the world was realizing the biases that are more prevalent in society.
    Maybe that’s the thing Yoichi? Self-awareness is good, but it may be easier to teach social-level awareness?


  3. Yoichi Ishida says:

    Thanks Ping-Yuan for the useful links.

    I think that one of things that research on implicit bias shows is that people often have bias that goes directly against their belief. For example, people (regardless of gender) implicitly associate mathematical and scientific competence more with men than women even though they explicitly believe that there’s no gender difference in mathematical and scientific competence. In other words, people have implicit biases that conform to traditional stereotypes and prejudices that they explicitly reject.

    It’s conceivable that some people would question the whole idea of implicit bias. For after all, they believe (say) in gender equality. And I suppose this sort of reaction would be more common among people who are not the target of a given stereotype or prejudice. But such reaction would create a hostile environment for those who experience the stereotype or prejudice. (Imagine you are discriminated on the basis of gender and want to discuss the issue, yet your audience simply dismiss the existence of such discrimination. That’s not a good environment for discussion.) So one of my concerns is how to teach this material to a class where some students might show extreme skepticism about the concept of implicit bias while some students are targets of these biases.

    Researchers suggest raising awareness of implicit bias as one way to counter the harmful consequences of our own biases. And that’s something I think teaching implicit bias in college could help achieve.

    But my other worry is how to do this without harming the students who are subject to these biases. For example, if I were to discuss in class that people have implicit bias against women’s mathematical and scientific competence despite the fact that they believe women are just as capable in these areas as men, I would want to make sure that the female students will not be discouraged about their potential to succeed or become skeptical about their own abilities.


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