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Bias: How It Affects Our Daily Perceptions

In developing a campus climate that implements effective diversity and inclusion, it is necessary to examine bias in hiring and supervision.

AACU: Diversity & Inclusion Definitions

In discussions of Diversity and Inclusion, these are the broad definitions employed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities:

Diversity: individual differences (e.g. personality, learning styles and life experiences) and group/social differences (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin and ability as well as cultural, political, religious or other affiliations

Inclusion: the active, intentional and ongoing engagement with diversity - in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum and in the communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect - in ways that increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact with systems and institutions

Types of Bias

Cognitive Bias

Cognitive bias refers to the unconscious patterns of thought which have the unintended effect of conferring advantage to some and disadvantage to others. (Krieger 1995; Reskin 2000)

Examples of Cognitive Bias

  • Cognitive bias - tendency to interpret information to confirm preconceptions
  • Essentialism - categorizing people and things according to their "essential nature" regardless of variations
  • Halo effect - tendency for one's positive or negative traits to "spill over" from one area of personality to another in others' perceptions

Structural Bias

Structural bias refers to the institutional patterns and practices that confer advantage to some and disadvantage to others based on identity. (McIntosh 1988; Rosette 2006)

Examples of Structural Bias

  • Positions of power tend to be held by members of a dominant group.
  • Excellence tends to be identified with that group.
  • Attention tends to be centered on members of that group (the "norm").

Structural bias is further explained by:

  • Unexamined norms
  • Standards, expectations, assumptions, beliefs
  • Define key aspects of organizational culture
  • Mostly based on/invisible to the dominant group
  • Unearned privileges
  • Advantages/benefits/rewards not available to all
  • Degree of similarity to normative/dominant group
  • Not merit-based
  • Not within the beneficiary's control
  • Related to social context 

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