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Social Bias Concept Research Paper


Social bias encompasses a whole range of prejudicial attitudes toward members of a particular group, race, religion, or sex (Fazio & Olson, 2003, p. 297). In most cases, social bias is taken to represent both the conscious and unconscious expression of the prejudicial attitudes in interpersonal interactions, speaking, and writing among other contexts.

On the other hand, biases work against the members of the victimizing group and those victimized in many aspects. Here, many category-based biases directed toward victims include discriminatory behaviors, avoidance, segregation, cognitive stereotypes, emotional prejudices, group extermination, and physical attack among other forms (Fazio & Olson, 2003, p. 297).

This paper offers an elaborate analysis of the concept of social bias by addressing the underlying concepts of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. Additionally, the paper will highlight the differences between subtle and blatant biases besides discussing their implications on the lives of individuals. Finally, the paper will look at the available strategies in combating social bias.

Prejudice, Stereotyping, and Discrimination

From the foregoing overview, it is apparent that prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination inform the concept of social bias in many ways. Here, prejudice refers to an irrationally-based, positive or negative attitude expressed to members of a particular group. On the other hand, discrimination is the actual actions (either positive or negative) shown to victims of prejudice.

Meanwhile, stereotyping refers to the act of expressing generalized characterization of members of a particular group based on their race, ethnicity, color, sex, and religion among other factors (Todd, 2009, pp. 1-23). As a result, social psychologists have studied bias on the basis of these three concepts and in the process; they have distinguished two major types of social bias namely subtle and blatant biases.

Subtle biases refer to the unconscious, automatic, implicit or indirect attitudes, which arise from the internal conflict involving cultural ideals and biases. This form of bias has been shown to occur in millisecond prejudicial interactions, stereotypic associations, and non-verbal behaviors (Fazio & Olson, 2003, pp. 297-328). As opposed to different forms of overt behaviors, these attitudes and behaviors are usually less controllable.

Therefore, it is important to note that different social motives work to sustain subtle bias. For instance, by belonging to a certain group, members share certain biases toward members of different groups. Here, bias is motivated by the need to control the perceived unpredictability of out-group members besides managing the perceived threats to in-group members.

Furthermore, the need for in-group members to enhance their perceived distinct or positive self identity may as well contribute to subtle biases. As a result, subtle bias will operate to sustain various understandings aimed at protecting the self. For instance, despite the racial attitudes of white people changing over the years, different people have come up with various ways of protecting their self-image.

In more subtle ways, whites maintain their self-image through nonverbal behaviors, modern racism, and subtle prejudice (Fazio & Olson, 2003, p. 299). As a result, it is common practice to see people formulating policy preferences that discriminate against out-group members or exaggerate in-group attributions and differences.

Conversely, in the face of increased out-group threats, some people employ more direct, conscious, explicit or unambiguous forms of bias referred to as blatant biases. Here, blatant bias forms the basis for physical aggression, verbal attacks, and hate crimes among other radical forms of intergroup associations.

According to the realistic group conflict theory, blatant biases are as a result of intergroup conflicts over the limited economic/symbolic resources in the midst of hierarchical strategies of managing the available resources.

On the other hand, the social identity theory notes that blatant bias is the result of group dynamics in that in-group members will work to minimize the within-group differences while exploiting the intergroup differences (Fazio & Olson, 2003, p. 300). Overall, the need to sustain in-group belonging leads to self-categorization and group distinctiveness to the disadvantage of out-group members.

Furthermore, besides social identity, other forms of intergroup differences such as authoritarianism and social dominance operate to sustain blatant biases. Here, authoritarianism supports social conformity in the middle of the perceived danger from out-group members.

For instance, authoritarian compliance to the powerful and aggressive tends to favor the threatened group who will then harbor blatant prejudices toward the perceived danger posed by the out-group members (Fazio & Olson, 2003).

Implications of social bias

Social bias possesses both positive and negative implications on the lives of individuals. For instance, from the foregoing discussions, it is apparent that subtle bias is socially useful in that it sustains in-group belonging in the midst of increased out-group aggression. Despite that different forms of subtle bias underlie stereotypic behaviors on one hand; they do also cement in-group interactions leading to cohesion.

In this way, members of a particular group will work together toward overcoming a common threat from the out-group members. Moreover, subtle biases help to build certain social roles and categories such as housewife, welfare recipient, and elderly persons, which are not necessarily stereotypical (Todd, 2009; Fazio & Olson, 2003, p. 312).

However, social bias has many negative implications compared to positive implications. For instance, social bias is implicated in distorting peopleโ€™s perceptions in different situations. Additionally, social biases affect the way people process, notice, or attend to information.

Furthermore, biases affect social judgment, and thus, they have been implicated in many social vices including crime, terrorism, discrimination, and wars (Todd, 2009, p. 33). However, the most outstanding impact of social biases has been studied in the healthcare sector.

Here, a large body of studies implicates social biases in the occurrence of health disparities among different ethnic and religious groupings. Furthermore, weight biases have also been shown to lead to various negative outcomes on the health of obese patients.

Overcoming Social Bias

Due to the inherent negative effects of social biases on the stigmatized targets, there is the need to buffer those suffering from the consequences.

Accordingly, studies propose various strategies for combating bias such as increasing diversity in avenues of social interaction, enhancing motivation and the need to control oneโ€™s prejudiced behaviors, and developing the desired social behaviors through role-playing (Fazio & Olson, 2003, p. 320).

Accordingly, through increasing diversity in social interactions, it is possible to promote interpersonal contacts between different kinds of people, and thus altering the socially-valued norms or behaviors. Alternatively, studies note that people can own their thoughts and actions, and therefore, they can monitor or alter their prejudiced behaviors consciously.

This is the idea behind the efforts meant to encourage people to control their prejudiced responses, thoughts, and behaviors during social and inter-personal associations (Fazio & Olson, 2003, p. 325).

Finally, for people to alter their non-verbal cues that lead to social biases, it is important to encourage them to be aware of their body language because studies note that most people are not aware of these cues, which include smiling, friendliness, eye contact, and spatial distance among others.

This strategy is very important in overcoming biases because most non-verbal cues form the basis through which simple prejudices turn into actions (discrimination).

Overall, despite that these three strategies cannot completely eliminate social biases by themselves; they provide a good starting point through which other methods can be tailored to fit into the ideas behind these three. In the long run, putting different strategies into action may prove beneficial in combating social biases.


Fazio, R.H., & Olson, M.A. (2003). Implicit measures in social cognition research: Their meaning and use. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 297-328.

Todd, D.N. (2009). Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. New York: Psychology Press.

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