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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Implicit Bias: Peanut Butter, Jelly and Racism

Implicit bias is unavoidable because the brain is simply a massive pattern recognition machine. This pattern recognizing machine will create associations and correlations whether they are true or not. For instance, let's say I've seen a new friend, Jill, a half dozen times this year and every time I saw Jill she was wearing a blue shirt and it was raining. I can conclude that it rains when Jill wears a blue shirt. Of course, it also rains when Jill does not wear a blue shirt. I just never happened to see her on those days. Without giving rules for the brain to follow when making such associations, it may lead to concerning biases. So powerful is the brain's desire to recognize a pattern that it may even fabricate associations when none exist such as with superstitions. The only thing that separates a superstition from a verifiable association is the scientific method. The scientific method are rules that help the brain process the same information. We owe it to ourselves to have self-awareness of those biases. Lack of self-awareness of our own implicit biases is akin to driving a vehicle with a blindspot. If you are unaware of your vehicle's blind spot, you may sideswipe other vehicles, collide with objects, and run over others without intention. But, with the awareness of your blind spot, you create a rule to check it when engaging in certain decisions and maneuvers on the roadway and, in doing so, function more safely and responsibly in society.
from Rajesh Harrykissoon, MD

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