Bias starts with our automatic tendency to categorize individuals. We categorize individuals and objects to make sense of the world, which includes categorizing people we don’t know according to group membership. We then attribute to these individuals the stereotypes associated with their group. This does not require animus; it requires only knowledge of the stereotype. Implicit bias, like explicit bias, can produce discriminatory actions. Research has examined implicit biases linked to ethnicity and race, gender, social class , sexual orientation, religion, body shape), and age. It has examined the manifestations of bias among members of various professional groups, such as doctors, other health professionals, medical students, educators, prosecutors, and law enforcement . In policing, implicit bias might lead the line officer to automatically perceive crime in the making when she observes two young Hispanic males driving in an all-Caucasian neighborhood. It may manifest among agency command staff who decide (without crime-relevant evidence) that the forthcoming gathering of African American college students bodes trouble, whereas the forthcoming gathering of white undergraduates does not. Moving beyond racial and ethnic biases, implicit bias might lead an officer to be consistently “over vigilant” with males and low income individuals and “under vigilant” with female subjects or people of means. Where there is a crash with two different versions of what happened, implicit bias might lead the officer to believe the Caucasian man in the white shirt and tie driving the BMW as opposed to the Hispanic man in jeans and a pick-up truck. Remedies: Reducing and Managing Biases So the bad news is that prejudice remains widespread and manifests below consciousness, even in those of us who eschew, at a conscious level, prejudices and stereotypes.
The good news comes from the large body of research that has identified how individuals can reduce their implicit biases or, at least, ensure that their implicit biases do not affect their behavior. Scientists have shown that implicit biases can be reduced through positive contact with stereotyped groups) and through counter-stereotyping, whereby individuals are exposed to information that is the opposite of the cultural stereotypes about the group. The former mechanism provides further justification for community policing methods, such as permanent assignments and positive police interactions and partnerships with the diverse individuals within a community. The latter mechanism provides the theoretical rationale for use-of-force role-play training (including computer simulations) that randomly pairs the demographics of subjects to scenarios that do and do not result in threat or danger to officers. In addition, taking the perspective of the stigmatized other has been shown to reduce (both explicit and implicit) biases, at least temporarily.