The Impact of Awareness on Reducing Social Bias in Behavior

Axt, Jordan, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Nosek, Brian, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

Social bias in behavior is widespread. Interventions to reduce biased behavior have mostly been tested in isolation. As a result, it is unclear whether such interventions derive their effectiveness from theoretically-unique or common mechanisms. In this dissertation, a simultaneous test of four prominent bias reduction interventions revealed that each was able to reduce favoritism toward physically attractive people in an academic admissions task (Study 1). These interventions shared two features: 1) raising awareness that applicants differ on an irrelevant social dimension, and 2) asking participants to behave fairly. When testing these shared features, only increasing awareness reduced biased judgment (Study 2). Moreover, Study 1 interventions were only effective at decreasing socially biased behavior when they raised awareness about the irrelevant social dimension (Study 3). Finally, increased awareness about one irrelevant social dimension had no impact on biased judgment on another irrelevant social dimension (Studies 4a and 4b). Bias reduction strategies with different theoretical origins may actually operate via a shared mechanism of awareness, and effectiveness of awareness interventions may be limited to the reducing bias toward that category rather than engaging general bias reduction decision-making strategies.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
psychology, implicit cognition, bias, decision-making
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