What Is Explicit Bias? | Definition & Examples
Explicit bias is a demonstration of conscious preference or aversion towards a person or group. With explicit bias, we are aware of the attitudes and beliefs we have towards others. These beliefs can be either positive or negative and can cause us to treat others unfairly.
Expressions of explicit bias can seem innocuous, like the example above, but they can also include hate speech, physical harassment, or discriminatory policies that target and exclude individuals or groups.
What is explicit bias?
Explicit bias occurs when our perception is distorted due to preferences and beliefs that we consciously hold about others. Negative behaviour (such as overtly racist acts or prejudiced comments) can be a result of explicit bias. However, a teacher who openly praises students from a specific ethnic or socioeconomic group is also expressing explicit bias. In other words, even when our assumptions about a group are positive, we are still biased. Whether positive or negative, explicit bias prevents us from being fair in our judgements.
Explicit bias occurs as a result of deliberate thoughts, which we can both identify and communicate with others. Any aspect of an individual’s identity can become the target of explicit bias, including:
- Sexual orientation
- Socioeconomic status
Often these biases (and their outward expression) arise as a result of a perceived threat. When people feel threatened, they are more likely to seek to separate themselves from ‘others’ because this gives them a false sense of security. For example, when a country experiences an economic downturn and unemployment is on the rise, people are more likely to become hostile towards foreign workers.
What is the difference between explicit and implicit bias?
The difference between explicit and implicit bias is conscious awareness. Although both involve favourable or unfavourable evaluations of groups of people, they operate differently.
Explicit bias refers to biased attitudes we are aware of, while implicit bias operates outside our awareness and control. Explicit bias is usually easier to identify, as it’s more obvious. Conversely, implicit bias is more subtle and can be in direct contradiction to a person’s openly held beliefs.
|Preferences, beliefs, and attitudes of which people are generally consciously aware
|Associations and reactions that emerge automatically, without conscious awareness or intention
|Expressed directly and deliberately
|Expressed indirectly or subtly
|Operates at a conscious level, in line with one’s values and worldview
|Operates subconsciously, even in direct contradiction to one’s values and worldview
|Example: ‘Female scientists who are mothers are not serious about their research’
|Example: Not promoting female scientists who have a family
Explicit bias example
Explicit bias in the form of racism continues to maintain a foothold in research today. It often manifests in the form of false beliefs regarding the influence of biology on intelligence.
Frequently asked questions
- What is the opposite of explicit bias?
The opposite of explicit bias is implicit or unconscious bias. This refers to all the subconscious evaluations we have formed about a certain group. Implicit bias can influence our interactions with members of this group without us realising.
- Is bias positive or negative?
Bias can be either positive or negative. However, all forms of bias (whether favourable or unfavourable) prevent us from judging others fairly.
For example, because of explicit bias, a teacher might openly claim that students from a certain ethnic background are exceptionally good in math. Even though this sounds positive, it means that other students are automatically treated as second-rate. For this reason, bias is linked to unfairness and thus has a negative connotation.
- What are the two main types of bias?
There are two main types of bias:
Implicit bias is the positive or negative attitudes, feelings, and stereotypes we maintain about members of a certain group without us being consciously aware of them.
Explicit bias is the positive or negative attitudes, feelings, and stereotypes we maintain about others while being consciously aware of them.
- What is bias?
Bias is a systematic error in the design, administration, or analysis of a study. Because of bias, study results deviate from their true value and researchers draw erroneous conclusions.
There are several types of bias and different research designs or fields are susceptible to different types of research bias. For example, in health research, bias arises from two main sources:
- The approach adopted for selecting study participants
- The approach adopted for collecting or measuring data
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