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What is Implicit Bias in Education?

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Implicit bias refers to unconscious attitudes, reactions, stereotypes, and categories that affect behavior and understanding1. In higher education, implicit bias often refers to unconscious racial or socioeconomic bias towards students, which can be as frequent as explicit bias.


Although students who are more likely to struggle academically are less likely to seek help, instructors may mistakenly believe that these students know how and when to ask for assistance.

Students who write poorly may be unfairly judged as being unintelligent.

Instructors may make assumptions about students with physical disabilities, such as that they also have mental disabilities and therefore need more support.

Teachers may mistakenly believe that students will be most interested in and engaged with historical, contemporary, or fictional characters who share their demographic characteristics.

Explicit vs Implicit Bias

Explicit bias is a conscious and intentional prejudice or discrimination against a particular social group. It is the opposite of implicit bias, which is unconscious and unintentional.

For example:

  • Making negative comments or jokes about members of a particular group
  • Engaging in violence or other forms of harm against members of a particular group
  1. Awareness of Implicit Biases | Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning ( ↩︎