Explicit Bias

What it is:

“Explicit bias” refers to the attitudes and beliefs we have about a person or group on a conscious level. Much of the time, these biases and their expression arise as the direct result of a perceived threat. When people feel threatened, they are more likely to draw group boundaries to distinguish themselves from others.

Why it’s important:

People are more likely to express explicit biases when they perceive an individual or group to be a threat to their well being. Research has shown that white people are more likely to express anti-Muslim prejudice when they perceive national security to be at risk and express more negative attitudes towards Asian Americans when they perceive an economic threat. When people perceive their biases to be valid, they are more likely to justify unfair treatment or even violence. This unfair treatment can have long-term negative impacts on its victims’ physical and mental health.

What can be done about it:

Expressions of explicit of bias (discrimination, hate speech, etc.) occur as the result of deliberate thought. Thus, they can be consciously regulated. People are more motivated to control their biases if there are social norms in place which dictate that prejudice is not socially acceptable. As we start forming our biases at an early age, it is important that we reinforce norms in our homes, schools, and in the media that promote respect for one’s own and other groups. Research shows that emphasizing a common group identity (such as “we are all Americans”) can help reduce interracial tensions that may arise between majority and minority ethnic groups in the U.S. Also, when conducted under the right conditions, studies show intergroup contact between people of different races can increase trust and reduce the anxiety that underlies bias.

Learn more:

More information about explicit bias and the way it shapes the lives of black men and boys can be found in our report Transforming Perception.