Unconscious bias continues to be a hot topic for our clients and we are always seeking evidence for how this is quietly influencing us in the background of our day-to-day decision-making.

We are all susceptible to being influenced by features of our surroundings in ways we don’t suspect – and that is exactly the point about unconscious bias – we really don’t know we’re doing it!

Take a look at this example

One famous experiment involved a phone box in New York City.  Each time someone left the phone box following their call, an accident was staged – someone dropped their papers on the pavement. Sometimes a coin had been placed in the phone booth, sometimes not. If there was no coin there, only 4% of the exiting callers helped to pick up the papers, but when researchers placed a dime in the booth, no fewer than 88% helped.

Since then, many other similar experiments have been carried out, all to the same general effect.

Still sceptical?


Some highly experienced judges were given a description of a shoplifting offence. They were then “anchored” to different numbers by being asked to roll a pair of dice that had been secretly loaded to produce only two totals – three or nine.

Finally, they were asked whether the prison sentence for the shoplifting offence should be greater or fewer, in months, than the total showing on the dice – those who had just rolled nine proposed an average of eight months while those who had rolled three proposed an average of only five months. All were unaware of the anchoring effect.

The same is true for all of us for much of the time – we are making judgements, based on an unconscious hypothesis of which we can have no knowledge.

In another example, when people reflect on a past experience of pain, they tend to prefer a larger, longer amount of it to a shorter, smaller amount, so long as the closing stages of the greater pain were easier to bear than the closing stages of the lesser one!

So what can we do about this?

The first step is to become more conscious – understanding where your biases come from and that we are all likely to be doing this at some level. Being aware of and recognising that unconscious bias affects your decision making is key. You can then learn to challenge and override your natural biases.

We offer training on Unconscious Bias in the workplace. Our Learning Lunch will introduce you to the concept of Unconscious Bias and help you understand how people are not as logical as they would like to think. We share practical ways to help you consciously break habits and do things differently.

We are also just about to launch our brand new online learning programme for Unconscious Bias so watch this space.