A Study in Wellness
MARY MANCUSO, M.A., Clinical Associate
You are outside watering your trees on a hot day when a young man walks by with his Labrador Retriever. Sweat is dripping from his forehead, and his dog is panting. You immediately offer him and his dog a drink of water. Your subconscious mind has likely registered the man as active, fun, and caring rather than dangerous. You’ve encountered many engaging dog owners on your hikes in the mountains or visits to the river and know his “type.” You could even see yourself being friends with him.
It is likely that implicit bias has affected your willingness to help this man and his dog and thoughts about possible friendship. Implicit bias is defined as the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. Implicit bias does not, necessarily, have a negative connotation as illustrated in the example above. However, we often see the negative effects of implicit bias playing out in society in healthcare, education, housing, and legal settings as race, ethnicity, sex, age, or sexual orientation factor into being offered or denied various opportunities.