BIAS & Research Confirms Talking About Your Biases Can Help Reduce Them

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “This soon to be published research in Administrative Science Quarterly found that if people are reminded that everyone stereotypes others to some degree, then they will be more open to share their biases and as a result be more creative. In other words, let people know that everyone has biases and that we should not be afraid to discuss those biases. Doing so, rather than hiding our biases, fosters more creativity and problem solving.”

Study Says Creativity Can Flow From Political Correctness

“I think most people want to be unbiased, and there are ways we can try to make that happen.” – Michelle Duguid,a professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

by NPR staff, JANUARY 24, 2015 6:14 PM ET.

Michelle Duguid,a professor at Washington University in St. Louis and her co-authors set up an experiment to see if the notion that politically correctness impedes creativity held up to scientific scrutiny.

They sat down students in groups of three to brainstorm ideas on how to use a vacant space on campus. Some of the groups were all men, some all women, others mixed. Control groups got to start right away on the brainstorming, but the test groups were primed with a script.

The research team told those groups that they were interested in gathering examples from college undergraduates of politically correct behavior on campus. They were instructed to, as a group, list examples of political correctness that they had either heard of or directly experienced on this campus.

Duguid and her colleagues started another experiment, one that looked at stereotypes. They tested whether educating people about stereotypes would in turn reduce stereotypes. What they found was that by publicizing the fact that the vast majority of people stereotype, it actually creates a norm for stereotyping.

“People feel more comfortable expressing stereotypes or acting in ways that would be seen as inappropriate because it has set up this norm where everyone does it, so I might not be punished,” she says.

Duguid and her co-author tinkered with their message. Rather than telling the group that everyone was guilty of stereotyping, they simply told them that the vast majority of people put effort into not stereotyping.

“[It] actually had great effects,” she says. “It was the same as telling people that few people stereotyped. So that actually reduced stereotyping, and it was better, significantly better, than telling them nothing at all.”

For Duguid’s study, this was good news.

“I think most people want to be unbiased, and there are ways we can try to make that happen,” she says.

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