January 01, 2017

Opening Statement: Owning Up to My Bias . . . and Steps Toward Making Change

Laurence F. Pulgram

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It happened to be Christmas Eve. At Toys-R-Us, I had successfully wrangled the last available Lego starship and headed for the checkout. All the lines were long. I checked out the customers waiting, and I checked out the cashiers. I went for lane 2 over lane 1. Five minutes later, when lane 2 had not budged, it hit me why I was standing in it: My subconscious, unconscious brain had told me that the characteristics of my cashier—gender, accent, race, body shape, age—would make for a quicker checkout than the next cashier over. My biases were not only unconscious; they were also wrong.

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