Yesterday, I reported for jury duty, although I wasn’t chosen to be a juror.
After some initial paperwork, all the prospective jurors watched two short videos. One was the basics of court cases, which had been digitized from an older film version, making the audio and visual quality mediocre at best. The other was a very good video about implicit bias.
Implicit bias is the phenomenon of having unconscious thoughts or feelings about something or someone. The video pointed out that most of what our brains do every day is unconscious, ingrained from prior experience. For example, we don’t have to consciously reason out that you pour coffee into a cup rather than a shoe. Our unconscious mind knows what we need to do in most of our daily activities and can handle millions of details while our conscious mind can only handle a few dozen. However, our unconscious mind may also be the home of stereotypes of people of a certain race, gender, religion, occupation, socioeconomic group, etc.
The video was a very helpful reminder that we do need to consciously consider the influence our unconscious mind has on our thoughts and decisions, especially when dealing with new people and situations. During a trial, there are bound to be many instances of potential implicit bias. Do you trust a witness of the same race as you more than one of another race? Do you believe or disbelieve every word from a police officer because of the way you unconsciously react to authority figures?
I thought that the video did a good job of pointing out that everyone has implicit biases because everyone has an unconscious mind that is making it possible to function. The thing that is needed, during a trial and in everyday life, is to bring your conscious mind to bear on a situation and to ask yourself if your initial reactions are influenced by unconscious bias. The hope is that the recognition will make your judgments and actions fairer.
While I’m not acting as a juror this week, I will try to be more conscious of my own implicit bias in my daily life.
It will always be a work-in-progress.
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2023/01/24/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-24th-2023/