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We need to talk about the science behind implicit bias training

In the midst of the chaos of the last presidential debate was an exchange that’s worth revisiting. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden spoke about the Trump administration’s policy to limit the use of some kinds of diversity training in Federal workplace—particularly those that involve concepts related to “critical race theory” and “white privilege.”

Though Biden and Trump only discussed the topic briefly, it’s rare that the topic of diversity trainings get discussed on such a major stage. It’s worth looking more closely at what traditional workplace trainings entail and what is needed to actually build equitable workplaces, from my perspective, as a psychology professor.

The goals of creating a diverse and inclusive work environment are important and benefit organizations that employ a diverse workforce. Furthermore, there is a general recognition that bias in the workplace can decrease the diversity of the workforce in an organization and can also limit the degree to which employees feel free to express themselves fully at work.

As a result, organizations have turned to a variety of programs to combat bias in hiring and in daily work interactions with an eye toward attracting, hiring, and retaining a diverse base of employees. Advances in the field of psychology have played a role in the development of some forms of bias training, but, unfortunately, the results have not always lived up to their promise.

To frame this discussion, let’s start by thinking about what it means to be bi

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