May 16, 2022
When we were driving to Zena’s obedience training last Friday a truck passed us with large lettering that said, “AAA Batteries Delivered and Installed”. I was driving and my conscious mind did not take in the rest of the information on the back of the truck. What immediately crossed my mind was how it could be profitable to deliver and install AAA batteries? I buy AAA’s in bulk to have them on hand when the old batteries lose their juice. It is easy to pop the back of my remote and replace the old batteries with fresh ones. Why would I buy batteries individually and then paying someone to install them? Then my mind processed the rest of the information on the truck. These were AAA car batteries sold by the American Automobile Association (AAA). My subconscious disregarded the most important part of the message.
When I looked online, I found the human brain can process 11 million bits of information every second, but our conscious minds can only handle 40 to 50 bits of information a second. I only grasped “AAA batteries” rather that the entire message. Identifying “relevant data” forces our brains to take cognitive shortcuts to determine what is important and what can be ignored, and this leads to bias. Subconscious bias is a concealed prejudice and Harvard’s Implicit Association Test is a tool to understand how subconscious bias affect our beliefs and behavior. Unconscious decision making allows us to judge a person or situation from a first impression, but the same biases may result in the wrong reaction. Regardless of stated beliefs, the test found most have a subconscious bias toward males in the workplace. Regardless of stated beliefs, the test found 80% of people have “pro-white associations”, meaning it takes longer to put positive words in the “African American” category than to put negative words in the same category. Test results found 50% of more than 50,000 Black Americans tested have pro-white associations.
Statistics on how much our unconscious attitudes influence our actions are grim. We cannot choose our unconscious attitudes and subconscious biases. Our unconscious minds are highly suggestible and vulnerable to negative suggestions, but the mind is also available for positive suggestions, and one way is through “priming”. Priming is a phenomenon where exposure to a stimulus influences how a person responds to a subsequent, related stimulus, and the stimuli are often tied to words or images. Experiments indicate priming can have devastating effects on our unconscious attitudes, but if we can negatively influence our subconscious biases, we can also positively influence them. We can change our subconscious bias by priming our subconscious with positive associations to replace or counteract negative ones.
THOUGHTS: Unconscious discrimination is harder to see and harder to change than blatant discrimination. We can make a conscious effort to change through repetition and habit which can become ingrained in our subconscious. Subconscious biases are based on environment and accumulation of prior experiences. To change your subconscious biases, you need to change your environment and experiences. There are times when I only comprehend a portion of the information offered and miss the real meanings. This is often caused by from not paying attention to the details. How we act toward others and their differences is too important to leave to subconscious biases. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.