Why is Bias ‘Unconscious’?

Have you heard of colleagues who hired a person only to regret their choice a few weeks later? And realize later that they had missed very important details that could have helped take a better decision? Or perhaps you have observed a deserving team member being given the pass for promotion, due to his/her gender or ethnicity? It would surprise no one if you did.

Chances are ‘Unconscious’ Bias was at play here!

Unconscious bias – or looking for patterns and finding an in-group – is a survival mechanism so basic that it is below our conscious radar. As such, it usually shapes our decision-making without our being aware of it. The problem is that these biases are only a guideline; they’re not always right.

It is well established fact that companies that have less bias perform better and produce greater employee engagement and retention. Then why do we continue to display our biases in all types of everyday decision making?

Let us first accept that if we have a brain, we have bias.

Conventional wisdom says that ‘knowing’ you are biased will help you ‘stop’ being biased. But Neuroscience research has uncovered something very contrary – knowing isn’t enough! Bias in our brain operates automatically and unconsciously. And no amount of awareness will mitigate it. You can’t stop being biased, even when you know it, because it is beyond your brain’s conscious control. The good news is that while you cannot take bias out of your brain, you can take it out of the processes that affect decision making.

We at NeuroLeadership Institute have researched about Bias for over a decade and we have found the answer in a science-based strategy that can help employees mitigate individual biases to make more informed, effective and confident decisions.

We invite you to come and explore neuroscience – the new Language of Leadership!

Written by:

Soumen Chatterje

Executive Director – NeuroLeadership Institute of India and South Asia