Tag Archives: April2016

Implicit Bias: A Conscious Discussion of Unconscious Actions

It is no secret that unconscious biases penetrate various realms of society; from hiring decisions (Lebowitz, 2015) to medical care (Blair, Steiner, and Havranek, 2011) and even foul calls in the NBA (Schwarz, 2007).

But what about implicit bias in our everyday lives? Does it really play a role in who we form relationships with, or the way we interact with others, or even the way we perceive a stranger?

Implicit bias refers to attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner, according to the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, which publishes an annual Implicit Bias Review . Unlike explicit bias, which reflects the attitudes or beliefs that one endorses at a conscious level, implicit bias is judgment and/or behavior that results from subtle cognitive processes that often operate at a level below conscious awareness and without intentional control.

Recent claims of overt and covert discrimination on college campuses and in policing raise the question: How does someone’s unconscious reaction to people of a different race, religion or sexuality influence their judgment and behavior? Psychologists and social scientists working within this field do not have a concise answer to explain how implicit bias manifests in everyday life, as it is hard to rule out alternative explanations.
In other words, implicit bias can and does happen, but it is complicated to prove.

“Some biases seem obviously pilogowrong, like treating equally qualified people differently when hiring or promoting,” said Calvin Lai, director of research for Harvard’s Project Implicit. “Every day biases are hard to wrap our heads around because they’re so much more personal, and you can point to other reasons.”

Similarly, structural factors beyond your control might come into play. If most of your friends look like you, or you tend to date people of the same race as you, it could largely be just a reflection of the demographics in your community.

However, research shows that those relationships, along with the interactions and experiences that come from them, are key contributors of implicit biases. These biases begin forming at a young age and are easily reinforced into adulthood through social settings and mass media.

“When you think backwards, what you think is normal is really cultural pressure that pushes you into bias, implicit and conscious,” said sociologist Charles Gallagher, chairman of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at LaSalle University in Philadelphia.

Hanging out with friends that look like you isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if they’re nice people! However, research suggests that implicit biases and stereotypes, both positive and negative, are maintained through persistent lack of contact with others beyond your “in-group,” that is people who share certain characteristics.

The good news? We are not helpless to combat implicit bias. It can be mitigated through intervention strategies, starting with recognizing where it might exist in your life and seeking exposure to people and experiences beyond your regular circles.
Psychologists and social scientist who study implicit bias are working to gather more data with the goal of making people more aware of their unconscious decision-making and its consequences.
Harvard’s Project Implicit features a battery of “implicit association tests” where participants can measure levels of implicit bias around certain topics based on the strength of associations between concepts and evaluations.

“The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a ‘virtual laboratory’ for collecting data on the Internet.”

If you’re interested in measuring your levels of implicit bias (almost everyone displays bias in some way, according to the experts!), here are a few tests you can take:
Understanding Prejudice: Implicit Association

Test Look Different: Bias Cleanse


2015 State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review. (2015). Retrieved from; http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/my-product/2015-state-of-the-science-implicit-bias-review/
Blair, I. V., Steiner, J. F., & Havranek, E. P. (2011). Unconscious (Implicit) Bias and Health Disparities: Where Do We Go from Here? The Permanente Journal, 15(2), 71–78.
Grinberg, E. (2015). 4 ways you might display hidden bias every day – CNN.com. Retrieved from; http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/24/living/implicit-bias-tests-feat/
Lebowitz, S., Jul. 17, 2015, 9, 022, & 2. (2015). 3 unconscious biases that affect whether you get hired. Retrieved from; http://www.businessinsider.com/unconscious-biases-in-hiring-decisions-2015-7
Schwarz, A. (2007, May 2). Study of N.B.A. Sees Racial Bias in Calling Fouls. The New York Times. Retrieved from; http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/02/sports/basketball/02refs.html

Notes from the Library…Measuring Research Impact: Author Metrics

At some point in your career, you will be asked to demonstrate the impact of your work.  You may be asked to do this for a grant application, progress report or renewal, or on a CV for a job application, promotion, tenure or performance review.  Traditionally, this has meant providing a list of publications you have authored, and perhaps the number of citations that those publications have received.  Alternative methods of demonstrating research impact will be discussed in a later post.

How can I create a list of publications that I have authored?

You can do an author search in any bibliographic database, such as PubMed (see this month’s PubMed tip), Web of Science, or Scopus.  It may be necessary to search more than one database to generate a complete list.  Once you have run the search, you can save the results within the database (for example, send results to the My Bibliography section of My NCBI in PubMed) or export them to a citation manager.

Where can I find how many times my articles have been cited?

Several databases provide the number of times an article has been cited.  Traditionally, Web of Science has been used to obtain citations counts; recently, Scopus and Google Scholar have emerged as alternatives to Web of Science.  Each resource provides a different citation count because each indexes (or, in the case of Google Scholar searches) a different set of journals over a different period of time.  Web of Science remains the best choice for authors with a long publishing history because Scopus indexes articles published from 1996 to the present (although older content is being added).  Google Scholar is a moving target because it “generally reflects the state of the web as it is currently visible to our search robots and the majority of users” (https://scholar.google.com/intl/us/scholar/citations.html – citations).  Regardless of the source that you choose, it is important to always cite that source.

How can I create a citation report in Web of Science or Scopus?

A Web of Science or Scopus citation report provides aggregate statistics for a set of search results.  See the library’s ‘Measuring your Research Impact’ guide for step-by-step instructions on generating a citation report in Web of Science and Scopus.

What is the h-index? 

You may have heard of, or noticed on your citation report, a metric called the h-index.  The h-index is the number of papers (h) in a set of results that have received h or more citations.  For example, an author with an h-index of 10 has 10 articles that have each received 10 or more citations.  This metric is an attempt to measure both quantity (number of publications) and quality (number of citations).  Therefore, it is considered a measure of the cumulative impact of an author’s work.  For a recent discussion of the h-index and other measures of academic impact, see Anne-Wil Harzing’s ‘Reflections on the h-index’: http://www.harzing.com/publications/white-papers/reflections-on-the-h-index.

On the Shelf…

For work…

Essential Science Indicators

Electronic Resource: Essential Science Indicators

Location: Search for ‘Essential Science Indicators’ in Databases search box on the HHSL homepage (http://hirshlibrary.tufts.edu/).

This research analysis tool, integrated with Web of Science, provides performance statistics for authors, journals and articles for 22 subject fields.  Essential Science Indicators can answer questions like: who are the most-cited authors in my field; what journals publish the top papers in my field; what is the average number of citations per article in my field; or what is the minimum number of citations that my article needs to receive to be in the 10% percentile in my field?

And leisure…

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Location: HHSL Leisure Reading, Sackler, 4th Floor, Fiction D652

Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and numerous other awards, this book tells the parallel, and eventually intersecting, stories of a girl in France and a boy in the German army during World War II.

PubMed Tip of the Month: Author Search

Go to the Advanced Search Builder by clicking the ‘Advanced’ link under the PubMed search box.

Choose Author from the All Fields drop-down menu (just Author, not Author – Last, Author – Full, or any of the other options). Enter the author’s last name, followed by 1 or 2 initials with no intervening punctuation (for example: Jones EA). If you are unsure about the inclusion of the second initial, then do not include it.

If the author has a common last name, then you probably want to narrow your search by including an affiliation. To do so, choose Affiliation from the All Fields drop-down menu below the boxes where you have entered the author’s name. Enter the name and/or location of the institution with which the author is associated. Affiliation can become complicated if the author has been (or is currently) associated with multiple institutions, or the name of the institution has several possible variations. If the author has an uncommon last name, then first try searching without an affiliation.

Check the results to ensure that they authored by the person in whom you are interested.

If you have searched for your own name, then you can send the results to the My Bibliography section of My NCBI by clicking ‘Send to:’ in the top right corner of the results page.

Author Search in PubMed Advanced Search Builder
Author Search in PubMed Advanced Search Builder