State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2015

by Cheryl Staats; Danya Contractor; Kelly Capatosto; Robin A. Wright

May 1, 2015

This annual review tracks the latest research in the growing field of implicit bias. In addition to trends in the public domain and scholarly realm, the publication provides a detailed discussion of 2014 literature in the areas of criminal justice, health and health care, employment, education, and housing, as well as the latest ideas for debiasing.
  • Contrary to the common belief that the nation's progress with gender and racial equity has largely confined biases today to a small group of aberrational actors, researchers have shown that implicit biases are widespread and operate largely beneath the radar of human consciousness.
  • News stories that brought implicit bias into public discourse in the past year often centered on deaths of Black men during interactions with police officers.
  • One of the more robust areas of implicit bias research related to criminal justice, encompassing both policing (shooter/weapons bias and implicit bias training of police officers) as well as courtroom procedures.
  • In a notable divergence from previous literature, several 2014 health articles failed to establish a connection between physicians' implicit biases and treatment decisions by race.
  • The employment realm remained a key driver of implicit bias dialogue, fueled in part by a short video that permeated mainstream media detailing one man's experience with unconscious bias while searching for a job.
  • Researchers have devoted attention to studying debiasing techniques, with several approaches suggesting possibilities: exposing people to counter-stereotypic individuals or other counter-stereotypic training; intergroup contact; awareness and education about implicit bias; increasing a sense of accountability; taking the perspective of others; and engaging in deliberative processing.