Beauty & The Bias!

Feb 28, 2019 in Deep Learning
Posted By : Upendra Namburi


Why do taller people earn more money? Why do blondes earn more than brunettes? Why do “mature-faced” people have a career advantage over “baby-faced” people? Why do we think dark people make more spelling mistakes? Why do overweight people score lower on appraisals? Why do poorly dressed people achieve lower sales? 

As humans, we have 175 known biases! Understanding and addressing how this impacts us in our businesses and life holds the key to unleashing the next global wave of innovation. Areas which have already been begun to be proven by emerging technologies. But, first up. 

Where does Unconscious Bias stem from?

Unconscious bias is rooted in the brain, in the same region (the amygdala) associated with fear and threat. But bias is also found in other areas of the brain. Stereotyping, a form of bias, is associated with the temporal and frontal lobes. The left temporal lobe of the brain stores general information about people and objects and is the storage place for social stereotypes. The frontal cortex is associated with forming impressions of others, empathy, and reasoning (Henneman, 2014). Unconscious bias is the result of the brain’s lightning speed in taking in, tagging, and sorting information.

This mental grouping into good or bad helps the brain make quick decisions about what is safe or unsafe, and what was appropriate or not appropriate. It was a developed survival mechanism hard-wired into our brains—and this makes it far more difficult to eliminate or minimize than originally thought (Ross, 2008).

There are broadly five biases which are dominant in the workplace

i. Affinity bias: To warm up to people like ourselves. 

ii. Halo effect: To think everything about a person is good because you like that person

iii. Perception bias: To form stereotypes & assumptions about certain groups that make it impossible to make an objective judgement about members of those groups. 

iv. Confirmation bias: To seek information that confirms preexisting beliefs or assumptions 

v. Group think: This bias occurs when people try too hard to fit into a particular group by mimicking others or holding back thoughts and opinions. This causes them to lose part of their identities. 

He doesn't really mean it when he abuses! It's only his nature. South Indians need to have rice for all 3 meals! Mallus are like that only! ...the list is endless

Unfortunately biases can be debilitating, impacting your hiring decisions, product design and much more. This is not a conversation limited to driving inclusion and diversity in the workplace. It's much wider and deeper! How can you address this?

1. Recognize and acknowledge their existence. Creating an awareness and facilitating conversations about them, is perhaps the most crucial step you could take as a leader

2. Create Structures : For activities like decision making, resume screening, interview methods, mentoring, exit interviews. Map the entire employee life cycle. Allow constant dialogue and debates on where they could be creeping in. Mix it up regularly.

3. Look Beyond : Once you're aware that biases exist and have set in processes to consciously address the unconscious biases,  be aware that you perhaps need to dismantle and reconstruct existing methods processes (candidate interviews, resume screening, market research methodologies) and even look beyond the traditional methods. Firms like can offer insights into potential hires and customers like never before. Led by sharp data and effectively limit bias.

Leverage the large pools of data available out there and discover a pure un-biased world where even shorter people can earn big bucks! :)

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