Maryland Positive Behavior Support Training

Promoting Equity

A pause button

Our own cultural values and life experiences can impact how we view and respond to the behavior of others. One way to make sure we are focusing on equity is to understand what implicit bias is and how our unconscious beliefs can impact the way we react in interactions with other people who represent diverse cultural groups. Implicit bias occurs when we respond to people based on stereotypes and attitudes that we are not always aware of and that we are using every day. Reflecting on implicit bias with others helps us to understand ourselves better and change the way we respond so that we can act in a more equitable manner in the future. It is important to be aware of the times that our implicit bias may occur and actively take steps to change or neutralize this bias.

Implicit bias refers to stereotypes we hold about race or other groups that is based on unconscious beliefs. These stereotypes are based on social learning or the failure to be introduced to new people or ideas when we are younger that are now influencing our beliefs, understanding, actions, and decision-making. We can hold these unconscious stereotypes across a variety of domains including race, gender, disability, weight, etc. Awareness of our implicit biases is a first step in understanding theses underlying beliefs so we can interact with others in a way that is fair.

Project Implicit is a non-profit organization led by researchers to explore and better understand implicit bias. The website for Project Implicit includes short tests that help you learn more about the unconscious biases you hold. Click here to learn more about Project Implicit .

There are certain situations in which we are more likely to act based on our implicit bias. Examples of times that we may be more likely to act on implicit bias include periods during the day when we are hungry, tired, or are living with personal life stressors (an argument with a loved one at home, financial problems). Sometimes implicit bias occurs due to past experiences we have had or when we don’t know that much about a person. These situations are called vulnerable decision points.

Vulnerable decision points can be used to help you act on your new understanding of implicit bias by changing or neutralizing your initial response. A neutralizing routine is a preplanned, brief, alternate response to disrupt your past response to a situation and to give you time to think.

Neutralizing Routine: Assess and Respond

  • Assess:
    • Determine if this is a vulnerable decision point.
    • Is this a situation I’ve identified as a vulnerable decision point?
    • Am I in the right place to act in line with my values and in the best interest of the person I am supporting?
  • Respond:
    • Determine an alternative response.
    • Delay a decision until you can think clearly.
    • Reframe the situation.
    • Take care of yourself.
  • Try:
    • Take a deep breath.
    • Reflect on your emotions.
    • Consider the person’s best interests.