Valerie Purdie-Vaughns on Unintentional Bias

 We may have the best intentions, but our minds may still play tricks on us. This can complicate situations in ways that we’re not even aware, and produce negative outcomes. Want to avoid unintentional bias? Learn how to “wake up” from it.


Becoming aware of unintentional bias is essential to great leadership. In no case is this greater than in the issue of diversity. Big Think has written about how diversity strengthens organizations, even leading to better decision-making. It’s in the best interest of leaders to build diverse organizations. Unfortunately, in the quest for diversity, too many leaders are unaware of how unintentional bias is getting in their way and actually undermining the people they’re seeking to help.

Discrimination and bias and inequities is one of the most important topics of the day today. One of the reasons why is that many, many companies are becoming increasingly diverse.  Companies value diversity. They think it's really important,” says Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, the Director of the Laboratory of Intergroup Relations and the Social Mind at Columbia University. “And yet the way our brain works we still engage in many different kinds of biases and they happen outside of our awareness.”

For more on Purdie-Vaughns’s insights into unintentional bias, including the disturbing differences commonly found in letters of recommendation written for men versus those written for women, watch this clip from Big Think’s interview:

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