How Does Bias Testing Help Mitigate Bias Towards Diverse Communities

Aug 12, 2022

The United States of America, Canada, France, and Great Britain (as well as Spain and Portugal) have a history of disparity, oppression, violence, and at the same time genocide towards many diverse groups and indigenous people. It has a legacy which continues to dominate the conversation in North America around race and identity.

Many people may hold just a colonialized version of some of their own history, although in these days of the internet, a more complete version of the histories of minority groups in North America is not hard to find. One example of note comes from the abuse of indigenous children through the Indian residential school and Sixties Scoop systems to the current George Floyd murder and Black Lives Matter demand for justice and reform in the policing systems, education systems, and diverse minority communities underfunded by the government. From the over representation of indigenous people and minorities in the criminal justice system to deaths in police custody (such as those of Regis Korchinski-Paquet and Chantel Moore). From the double detriment for Indigenous women and girls as victims of violence, to the patterns of vanished and murdered indigenous women stretching back over 50 years, sitting against a background of poor or non-existent standards of investigation.

There have been commissions, reviews, and reports cited in all North American countries dating back several decades or more. There has been some apologies and compensation. There have been strategies and action plans. However, the discriminatory treatment of indigenous peoples and other minority communities continues across education, health, criminal justice, and in society more widely.

Dr. Jones, a psychologist specializing in bias and prejudice and as an ‘outsider’ to North America from the United Kingdom, found reading the colonial history of indigenous people and racism toward minorities in North America shocking and shame inducing. Sadly, the history and the societal response is very familiar to his own work around racial prejudice and discrimination in other countries, including the United Kingdom.
All of the historical, and many current, systems and processes produce and fail to address the common denominators of such disparity and abuse: the people who make the decisions, pass the laws, write the policies, set up the systems and exercise the power.

Accessing and assessing our biases against minorities, religions, indigenous peoples
Personal insight to the biases we may be using to disadvantage diverse people, minorities and indigenous people are difficult both to access for personal reflection, and even more difficult to assess. Societal and media stereotypes about diversity are endemic, so much so that they can slip into our everyday thoughts and behaviour without our awareness.

Being able to measure our personal biases towards diverse, minorities and indigenous people offer the potential for both personal reflections, but importantly, for targeted actions to mitigate bias in the future.
In 1998 researchers at Harvard University (U.S), offered the first prospect of assessing our personal biases through an online test called the Implicit Association Test (IAT). Over the past two decades 15 million people have taken the test and it has become what Professor Laurie Rudman, Director of the Rutgers University Social Cognition Laboratory described as the standard research methodology in understanding implicit bias. The Harvard IAT is a research tool which cannot be used as a diagnostic in applied settings.

Fortunately, the Shire Professional Psychologist Group (UK), have developed a real-world version of the IAT, capable of assessing and reporting on the strength and likely impact of bias on our decisions and behaviour or viewpoints toward others. Called Implicitly®, or, the Implicit Bias Test (IBT), the test can measure our personal bias against a range of differences including Age, Disability, Ethnicity, Faith/Religion, Nationality and Sexual Orientation. It has been used extensively in Europe (over 300,00 test completions). In Canada since 2021, this test has been used in the tens of thousands in the policing sector both Municipal and National, as well as the many Government Ministries dealing with front line workers and services. Ongoing research studies in police academies are now underway to measure levels of unconscious bias of recruits, and also measure the trainers and educational curriculum used to affect behaviour of recruits.

Future test use
The IBT tests can deliver tailored tests and detailed feedback to enable individuals to better understand and manage their biases towards minorities, indigenous people and other diverse groups in our society and organizations. Such insight based on test results and reflection, can be a great mitigating tool to motivate and help people control their biases.

The test has wider organizational uses:
Audit: Establishing a baseline measure of levels and types of bias within a workforce for comparison to other organizations. It can be used to compare different parts of one organization (e.g., comparisons between different geographical areas, functions, or teams). This can help target training, attention, and other resources.

Evaluation: Implicitly® can be used to evaluate interventions such as training or other bias mitigation initiatives by testing before and after the intervention, and perhaps at intervals thereafter. It can also assess the impact of events such as key news events and incidents.

Staff Development: Giving staff insight to their biases, and methods to mitigate bias helps the individual and the organization but most importantly the people who may be subject to the biases. Implicitly® can also be used to allow staff to understand their biases, as they relate specifically to the communities and customers they currently serve or may serve in the future.

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