Last week I was in Seattle attending the ABA’s 5th Annual Labor and Employment Law Conference.  While there have been a number of interesting and informative sessions, I wanted pass along an interesting demonstration that was done by Dr. Anthony Greenwald to demonstrate implicit bias (i.e., the internal, subconscious stereotypes we all allegedly have from our past experiences).

In large scale class actions, lawyers representing the classes have attempted to show systemic discrimination in corporations using, in part, implicit bias science.  Implicit bias science attempts to measure the extent to which individuals have implicit bias and how such bias might be predictive of discrimination.  Dr. Greenwald is the developer of the Implicit Association Test.  The test is designed to measure implicit attitudes people may harbor but are unaware of or would otherwise be unwilling to admit.

For example, in the test demonstrated last week, the group was shown a series of names and asked to answer whether the names were male or female names.  Response times were measured and the quicker the response time, the easier a person’s brain has in processing a response.  Next, the group was shown a series of job titles and asked categorize each as being a leadership position or non-leadership position (e.g., Boss, Supervisor, Leader, Executive, Assistant, Co-worker etc).  After measuring response times, the group’s response times tended to show that male names more closely correlated with leadership positions and female names correlated with non-leadership positions.  This, the test administrator believes, shows that the implicit bias of our group was to associates leadership job titles with males and lower job titles with females.  Dr. Greenwald observed that he has measured implicit bias in many areas such race, gender, appearance (obesity) and age; all useful things in employment discrimination cases –if valid.

While I didn’t come away from the demonstration with the belief that the IAT is useful evidence to prove discrimination or predictive of discriminatory behavior, it was interesting.  Do you have implicit bias?  Dr. Greenwald’s computer based test is available on-line and you can take it here (We took the Gender Career IAT).  What do you think?  Are you more likely to discriminate because your implicit bias?

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