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The harmful effects of explicit bias and how to overcome it

By Julian Lewis March 13, 2023

Explicit bias: the harmful effects of explicit bias and how to overcome it

In recent years, explicit bias in particular has become a popular topic of discussion, as individuals and communities seek to understand and combat the harmful effects of discriminatory attitudes and behaviors. Explicit bias refers to biases that are consciously held and expressed, often through overt actions or statements.

While implicit bias, or biases that are unconscious or automatic, has received a great deal of attention in recent years and is considered more "socially acceptable", research shows that explicit bias remains a pervasive issue that can have serious consequences for individuals and society as a whole.

In this blog post, we will explore the complexities of bias in the modern world and how to increase conscious awareness of explicit attitudes and beliefs. We will examine the ways in which explicit bias manifests itself in various contexts, from the workplace to the media to interpersonal interactions. Additionally, we will discuss the impact of explicit attitudes and bias on marginalized communities such as minority ethnic groups and the efforts being made to combat this type of bias.

What is explicit bias?

What is explicit bias?

Explicit bias refers to the form of bias that is consciously held and expressed, often through overt actions, statements, or negative attitudes. It refers to biases that individuals in the "in group" are consciously aware of and that they intentionally choose to act upon. Unlike implicit bias, which is often unconscious and automatic, explicit bias is a more deliberate form of bias.

Examples of explicit bias include making derogatory remarks about a particular race, religion, or gender, intentionally excluding individuals from social or professional networks based on their identity, or consciously treating someone unfairly based on their identity. For instance, an employer refusing to hire a candidate solely because of their race or gender is an example of explicit bias.

Explicit bias can have severe consequences for individuals and society as a whole, perpetuating inequality and discrimination. It can lead to unequal opportunities and treatment, which can further deepen disparities between different races and social groups.

What's the difference between implicit and explicit bias?

In contrast, implicit bias is a form of bias that occurs unconsciously and automatically. It is often the direct result of unconscious stereotypes that individuals have internalized from their upbringing, culture, or social environment. For example, an individual may have an implicit bias that associates certain minority ethnic groups with negative traits, even if they consciously reject those stereotypes.

It's essential to differentiate between explicit and implicit bias as they require different approaches to address. Implicit bias can be more challenging to recognize, control and acknowledge, while explicit bias is more visible and easier to identify. By understanding the difference between these two types of prejudices, individuals and communities can work towards mitigating the harmful effects of both and promoting greater equality and justice for all.

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Factors that influence explicit bias

Explicit and unconscious bias can be influenced by various factors, including cultural conditioning, personal experiences, and the media. Here are some ways in which these factors can contribute to explicit and unconscious bias:

Cultural conditioning:

The social and cultural environments we grow up in have a direct result on our perception, attitudes, and beliefs about different racial or social groups. For example, if a culture or community perpetuates negative attitudes and stereotypes about a particular group, it can lead to the formation of explicit biases against that group. On the flip side, if the people around us have a positive attitude about the members of their community, regardless of their identity, this tends to break down group boundaries and reduce interracial tensions

Personal experiences:

Our personal experiences and common group identity can also shape our attitudes and beliefs about different races or social groups. For example, if an individual has had a negative experience with a person from a specific racial or religious group, their perception of that person or group will likely be impacted, and they may develop an explicit bias against that group.


The media we consume can influence our beliefs and attitudes about different social groups. Research shows that media representations can perpetuate stereotypes or challenge them, leading to implicit attitudes or to the formation or re-evaluation of explicit biases.

All of these factors can contribute to the development and expression of explicit bias in individuals, and it's essential to recognize their influence to mitigate their negative effects. When we prioritize awareness of these factors, we can take steps to challenge and change our biases. For instance, we can engage with different cultural perspectives and experiences, critically evaluate media representations, and actively seek to understand the experiences and perspectives of different social groups.

Furthermore, it's important to acknowledge that explicit biases are not just individual phenomena, but rather are influenced by systemic and structural factors. Social norms, institutions, policies, and practices can perpetuate explicit biases, and it's important to address these broader societal factors to create a more just and equitable society. By recognizing and challenging explicit biases, both individually and collectively, we can work towards promoting greater equality and justice for all.

Understanding explicit prejudice

Explicit prejudice refers to biased attitudes or beliefs that are openly expressed and consciously held by individuals. This type of prejudice is characterized by a conscious level of overt and intentional discrimination against people based on their perceived race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or any other identifying characteristic. In contrast to implicit prejudice, which refers to unconscious biases, explicit prejudice is often explicit in language or behavior.

Examples of explicit prejudice include using racial slurs or derogatory terms, openly expressing hateful or discriminatory views towards a particular group, refusing to hire or serve someone based on their identity, or engaging in physical violence or harassment against individuals from a certain group. Explicit prejudice is an attitude, often accompanied by a sense of superiority, and the belief that one's own group is inherently better than others.

The harmful effects of explicit prejudice can be significant and pervasive, affecting both individuals and society as a whole. At the individual level, explicit prejudice can result in direct harm, such as physical violence, discrimination, or exclusion from social, educational, and economic opportunities. Individuals who experience explicit prejudice may also suffer from low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and trauma.

At the societal level, explicit prejudice can create and perpetuate systemic inequalities, social divisions, and conflicts. It can lead to discrimination in education, housing, healthcare, and employment, as well as political disenfranchisement and hate crimes. Explicit prejudice can also undermine social cohesion and trust, creating an atmosphere of fear, suspicion, and hostility.

Consciously biased: how to recognize explicit bias and address negative attitudes

Recognizing when one is exhibiting explicit bias can be challenging, as biases are often deeply ingrained in human nature and may be unconscious. However, it is important to acknowledge and address one's own biases to promote self-awareness, personal growth, and social justice.

One way to recognize explicit expressions of bias is to pay attention to one's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward individuals from different groups. This may include reflecting on whether one uses discriminatory language, makes negative assumptions about certain groups, or treats people differently based on their identity.

Another way to identify explicit bias is to seek out feedback from others, particularly those from different backgrounds or identities. Engaging in conversations with individuals who have different perspectives and experiences can help one become more consciously aware of one's own biases and blind spots.

Once identified, it is important to address explicit bias through strategies such as seeking out diverse perspectives, engaging in dialogue with others, and actively challenging one's own biases. This can include intentionally seeking out information from a variety of sources, challenging assumptions and stereotypes, and actively listening to and empathizing with individuals from different backgrounds.

Engaging in positive dialogue with others who hold different perspectives can also be a powerful tool for addressing explicit bias. This can involve actively seeking out opportunities to have meaningful conversations with individuals from different backgrounds, actively listening to their perspectives, and engaging in positive and constructive dialogue.

In addition to these strategies, it is important to continue to educate oneself about issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This may include reading articles, books, and other resources that explore issues related to bias and discrimination, attending workshops and training sessions, and seeking out opportunities to engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Recap on explicit bias

The effects of explicit bias can be devastating for individuals and society as a whole. However, by acknowledging and addressing our own biases, seeking out diverse perspectives, doing research, and engaging in constructive dialogue, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and just world.

It is crucial for each of us to engage in critical self-reflection and actively work to combat explicit bias in our own lives and communities. This means challenging our assumptions and stereotypes, listening to and empathizing with individuals' differences, and working to build bridges across social norms and cultural divides.

Ultimately, we all have a role to play in creating a more equitable and just world. We encourage each of our readers to take action in their own lives and communities to combat explicit bias and hate speech and work towards a more inclusive and welcoming world for all. Together, we can reduce interracial tensions, increase trust and promote respect through our actions and words, and make a positive difference for ourselves and generations to come.

If you're interested in exploring the impact of bias and discrimination further, you can also read our blog post on gaslighting.

For more on this topic, check out:

Building a better business: how to identify and correct negative workplace culture

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About Julian Lewis

Julian Lewis is a driven and accomplished professional with a passion for driving positive change in the business world. He is the co-founder and COO at Zella Life.

His own experience as a professional of color in a Fortune 500 company led him to discover the limitations for advancement that many professionals like himself face. Determined to reach his full potential, Julian became an established business coach and entrepreneur, committed to supporting others in their pursuit of personal and professional growth.

Today, Julian is a recognized corporate trainer, coach, and leader, known for his ability to leverage real-life experiences and evidence-based methodologies to affect positive change within individuals and organizations. As the leader of Zella Life's coaching division, he is dedicated to empowering individuals and businesses to achieve their full potential.

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