Visualization Exercise (15’)
The participants are asked to close their eyes and participate in a visualization exercise by inserting themselves into a story narrated by the facilitator. They are instructed to visualize the story with as much detail as possible. The story gets the participants to meet and interact with various characters, all of them presented with neutral pronouns.
‘’Imagine you’re at the airport in the early morning to catch a flight to a training. You drop off your checked baggage, you go through security, and you wait at the gate. Finally, you step on the plane, as the flight attendant checks your boarding pass and says “have a nice flight”. You take your seat, buckle up your seat belt and you see that the pilot has come out to greet everyone just before takeoff. The flight goes smoothly, you get to your destination, and after checking in at your hotel, you meet the other participants, and the hosts take you to a local restaurant where you have the best meal of your life. You’re really enjoying it. At the table next to you is a couple and they ask you to take a picture of them on their smartphone. They explain that they’re celebrating their anniversary and they offer to take a photo of your group as well. The next morning the training begins. You accidentally get on the wrong bus, but the bus driver is super helpful, so you’re only a few minutes late. When you finally get there, you walk into the training hall and you take your seat next to another participant.”
The facilitator asks the participants to slowly return to reality and open their eyes when ready.
“Now I would like to ask you some questions and I want you to think about the answers in your head first, and we’ll talk about them in the end.”
Was the flight attendant a man? Was the pilot black? Was the couple two men? Was the bus driver a woman? Was the other participant a wheelchair user? After all the questions have been asked, the pax are asked to share what their answers were out loud.
(Expected answer: the characters’ identities are expected to tend to conform with the social norms, so the answer is expected to be no for most of the participants and for most of the questions.)
The results are discussed with the group:
- Do you notice a pattern?
- How do you feel about it?
- What do you think is the reason behind this?
What is bias?
The participants are asked to come up with their own answers before a definition is shown and read:
“A bias is a tendency, inclination, or prejudice toward or against something or someone” (psychologytoday.com)
What is explicit/implicit bias?
The pax are encouraged to answer if they know. If they are struggling, the respective descriptions of conscious and unconscious are provided. The pax are then asked to provide some examples of each.
(Conscious bias: “I hate romance movies”
Unconscious bias: Disliking a movie if the trailer has romantic elements).
It should be pointed out that this workshop is designed to focus on implicit/unconscious bias.
Then the pax are asked: Is bias good or bad? The question is discussed, hopefully with arguments from both sides being heard. It is expected that at least one person will support that bias can be both good and bad. The participants are encouraged to provide examples for both sides. (Good: It can help you avoid a movie you will dislike Bad: It can prevent you from watching a movie you would actually enjoy).
Theoretical input (20’)
Biases are formed through our experiences and the information that we are given.
1)The first time we are faced with a new situation, person, or thing, we are unsure what to make of it. (Example 1: You see a mosquito for the first time Example 2: You meet a mathematician for the first time)
2)We have to take in all the available information, carefully process it, and make a conscious decision. (Example 1: The mosquito bites you. You don’t like it. Example 2: The mathematician is very rude. You don’t like them.) Unfortunately, this type of processing and assessment takes quite a bit of time and mental energy, so our brains have evolved with a way to work around it.
3)All the information that we gathered from this first experience is saved as a new “category” in our brain, with an assigned attitude or feeling attached to it. When the category is a type of person, it becomes a stereotype. (Example 1: You dislike things that look like mosquitos because they bite you. Example 2: You dislike mathematicians because they are rude.)
The next time we encounter a similar situation, 1) our brain recognises the similarities with our previous experience, 2) it categorises the situation, and 3) it makes an instant, unconscious decision according to the predetermined attitude. (Example 1: This thing looks like a mosquito, so I don’t like it. Example 2: This person is a mathematician so I don’t like them.) Note: Of course, our bias is not informed only by our very first contact with a “category” but it is reinforced every time we come across it or we receive information about it.
This type of categorization can be very useful because:
- It helps us make decisions faster, and avoid decision fatigue
- It keeps us from repeating old mistakes
- It helps us understand the world by simplifying it
However, this system has a major flaw, which can create negative effects. (Ask participants what they think the flaw is before giving it away) The things that are grouped together are not always the same.
The board is split into two and the pax are asked to brainstorm specific answers to the following questions:
- In what ways can personal bias negatively affect other people (How?) (Expected answers: workplace discrimination, unfair treatment, exclusion, fewer opportunities, unheard opinions, not taken seriously, housing discrimination)
- Which groups of people can be affected by bias (Who?) (Expected answers: people of a minority/different race, gender, class, age, religion, cultural background, disability, profession, size, political affiliation)
Additional question: which of these are relevant to youth organisations and how? (Recruitment, exclusion, unheard opinions, housing, …) The answers can be circled/highlighted on the board.
Looking for solutions (15’)
Pax are presented with 4 steps to fight bias and are encouraged to brainstorm on ways/techniques/tools on how to implement each one:
Learning, educating ourselves, acknowledging the problem
Identifying one’s own biases and the stereotypes behind them, looking behind the unconscious impulses (check out some Implicit Association Tests)
3. Habit creation
Regularly and methodically questioning our instinctive opinions (Is this true?Is this always true? What evidence do I have?), visualising and noticing situations that contradict the bias. The participants discover how they can minimise the impact of implicit bias.
4. Raising awareness
Discussing about bias, helping others recognise the problem and educate themselves.
The participants are asked to mark on a scale of 0-100 on a straight line how much they agree with the following statements:
- “I know what bias is and where it comes from”.
- “I understand the negative impact of leaving unconscious bias unchecked”.
- “I know how to face personal bias”.