What is Bias Testing and Why is it Important?

Posted by Alec Jandorek on 7 February 2017 |

importance bias testingWhether we like it or not, implicit biases affect us all. Whether it’s stereotypes about race, gender, religion, etc., as humans we hold certain beliefs about people who are different than us – even people who think they hold a neutral view have some sort of bias in their unconscious.

Our biases, which can stem from media, upbringing or societal factors, are unavoidable. And, while these biases are not indicative of a person’s morality, they can still be harmful to those around us.

On college campus, where many students are living on their own for the first time in their lives, those biases become much clearer. In a previous post, we discussed how implicit biases affect students on a college campus. And in it, we briefly discussed bias testing and how it can help make people aware of their own biases. This time we are going to dive deeper into bias testing and why it is important for your campus.

What is Bias Testing?

Hidden Bias Tests measure unconscious, or automatic, biases. These biases are the foundation of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. One of the more recent tests was distributed by Project Implicit, a collaboration of researchers from top universities. The test, dubbed the Implicit Association Test (IAT), aims to help people uncover their biases.

Bias tests aim to measure the strength of association between groups and evaluations or stereotypes. The outcomes of these tests can provide a clearer picture of how people perceive those in their outer group. Helping people become aware of their biases is the first step to addressing them. And these tests do a great job of identifying biases.

Why is Bias Testing Important?

These tests are important simply because people need a way to help recognize the biases they don’t know they have. People may never realize they hold biases until they are pointed out -- which is what these tests do. And when you make people aware, they can  take steps to help alleviate their biases.

Additionally, bias tests can help foster diversity and inclusion on your campus. For example, students may decide to reach out to different organizations they might have otherwise overlooked. And, like examples we listed in our other post, students may choose to work with a more diverse group in school projects.

One of the main benefits of bias testing is that it challenges people to see things from a different perspective. You see, these tests challenge people to think about why they think a certain way and what they can do to change it. And the individual can then “put themselves in someone else’s shoes” and see how they are affected by these biases.

The Role of Diversity Training

Implicit bias testing is an excellent first step. But then, what do you do next? You know that people have biases and now they are aware of them, but how can you help them change their perceptions and behaviors? With diversity and inclusion training.

As part of their diversity and inclusion programs, many colleges and universities use diversity training. A good training program will help students overcome their unconscious biases.

Training and learning about diversity and inclusion issues are never a one and done thing, which is why it’s important to reach students in a number of different ways. For example, you can use an online diversity training course to give students an introduction to diversity topics and set the tone for the kinds of behviors your university expects.

Then, you can drill down and host different workshops and in-person events focused on more specific topics. This is an excellent area to get student organizations involved because it’s very powerful to have the messages coming from their peers, rather than an authority figure.

There are a number of ways to reach your students and continue their education about diversity issues beyond an implicit bias test.

Conclusion

As you can see, bias testing is beneficial to everyone. Since implicit biases are unconscious, and held by everyone, people need to be made aware of them. And then, you can use diversity and inclusion training to help students respond to their biases and make positive changes.

By implementing bias tests and training on your campus, you can help foster a healthy and diverse campus environment where everyone feels included.

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