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 you are focusing on equity is to understand what implicit bias is and how our unconscious beliefs can impact our view of a situation. Implicit bias occurs when we respond to people based on stereotypes and attitudes that we are not always aware that we are using every day. Understanding implicit bias helps us to know ourselves better and change our responses so that they are more equitable.  It is important to be aware of the times that our implicit bias make occur and actively take steps to change or neutralize our bias.

Implicit bias refers to automatic, often unconscious stereotypes we hold about race or other groups based on social learning or lack of exposure, that influence 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 our 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 or understanding of implicit bias. The website for Project Implicit includes short tests that help you better understand 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 certain periods during the day, when we are hungry, tired, or are living with personal life stressors (for example, an argument 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 automatic response to a situation 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.