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Unconscious bias - an optical illusion

An unconscious bias is an automatic judgement that somebody forms without being aware of it. And whether we realise it or not, these judgements affect our thoughts, feelings and actions, and the result is often unfair in one way or another.

In the UK, there are unconscious biases influencing decisions in the workplace on a daily basis, and this can influence anything from recruitment choices to favouring co-workers.

For example, you may automatically pair up with a colleague on a work project because you have the same taste in music and enjoy talking with them, even though you’re not actually the best combination for the task at hand. This is an example of Affinity Bias - when we warm up to someone because we share something in common.

But fear not, once you’ve identified one of your unconscious biases, you can prevent it from influencing your judgements - leading to more informed and well-rounded decisions!

Let’s make learning fun! Unconscious biases as optical illusions...

To help you practice identifying your unconscious biases, we have developed a few images that will make you look twice. Then you can think about why you have interpreted them in a certain way.

These images are not an accurate representation of real unconscious biases, but they are a tool to help you see that your perception of something influences your opinion on that something - and your perception should always be questioned to avoid bias opinions and decisions being made.

Here they are...

Example 1

This image is an optical illusion of a common unconscious bias - the Horns Effect. This is when we let one negative trait about someone blind us to their positive qualities.

Take a look at Nadira below (the presenter of our Unconscious Bias Training course). By only looking at half of Nadira’s face, we’re blind to the other half - only noticing what we think we see, rather than what is actually there. Have your eyes also seen the side profile of another face? What did it make you think?

Unconscious bias illusion 1

Remember - your perception influences your opinion. But as we all see different things, we need to remember that our opinions are not facts.

Example 2

The optical illusion below can represent a number of common biases, including Beauty Bias. What do you see when you look at those “BIAS” letters? What colour are they? What letters do you prefer the look of?

We are naturally programmed to judge something or someone based on how they look before we even see how they behave, or who/what they actually are.

Have you noticed that all four letters in the image below are actually the same shade of red as the banner along the bottom?

Unconscious bias illusion 2

Chances are, the lines over the top of the letters have skewed your perception of their actual colour. This is a common problem with how we form opinions of others. The colour of someone’s skin, the religion they practice, the accent they have, the clothes they wear, or even the tattoos or piercings they have on show, will influence what we think of them as a person - even if we don’t realise it, and even though these things often have little to do with their actual character.

Example 3

This last image is an optical illusion of Gender Bias. This means having a preference for one gender over the other. This can change depending on the choice we’re making.

Does the figure on the right look a little bigger to you?

Unconscious bias illusion 3

The bricks in the background change our perception of the figures, making the man look taller. The same goes for our thoughts that live in the background of our minds - they make us look at things differently, even if we don’t realise it at first. Depending on the decision we are making, what we think we see will affect what we decide to do.

Believe it or not, both the man and woman are the exact same height.

The lesson is...

Take a step back and look a little closer. Whether you’re hiring someone, promoting someone, befriending someone, favouring someone, disagreeing with someone, or even have a dislike of them…

  1. Recognise what you think you see
  2. Question what you think you see
  3. Then put your opinion to one side and find the facts

And 4. Take a look at our Unconscious Bias course to become a pro at being fair and unbiased inside and outside the workplace. Inclusion and diversity are a recipe for success!

Online Unconscious Bias Training Course