Sunday, 25 February 2018

My bias declared publicly. Could you declare yours?

For quite sometime I have been active in quality improvement, leadership, patient safety, human factors and related areas. My interest includes discrimination in general but healthcare in particular and especially doctors. This relates to discrimination in the western world particularly in the UK. We know bias plays a part in this discrimination. Government and organisations have taken efforts in dealing with discrimination, this takes the form of law, training in equality and diversity and monitoring selected data. We are told how to deal with discrimination and how to avoid discrimination.

We were never asked to assess, quantify and declare our bias.

Bias is a part of life. For better or worse our history, legacy and as humans our capacity to pattern match means that bias gets in. We could even argue that bias is a normal part of life. However when bias affects the career, livelihood, reputation and freedom of certain segments of the population, it ceases to be normal. While bias could be accepted as normal, the positive or negative effects of bias that affects segments of population repeatedly can never be accepted as normal.

How do we prevent bias from affecting others?

In my opinion unless we assess our bias by a common method and then declare it publicly we cannot begin to tackle discrimination.

Once our bias is published publicly, then we can start having methods to take that into account in our decision making by appropriate counterbalances, algorithms, adjustments etc.

I cannot ask others to publicly declare their bias unless I have done so myself.

Currently, the Harvard Implicit Association Tests are a good (but not totally proven) method to assess our bias.

I have taken the test that relates to race and I am posting the results by screenshot here.

I am aware that this test relates better to the USA and refers to the black-white races. I also took this test thrice; twice the same result came up that I had a moderate automatic preference for white people and once the test showed no preference between white and black people; on the occasion that the test showed no preference, I had deliberately slowed down to take the test.

So does that make me a racist? I do not think so. Does that make me biased? May be it does, but since I have known this for sometime now, I make deliberate conscious effort to overcome my Harvard IAT data based moderate automatic preference for white people. I think very deeply on how my actions are impacting. I take extra effort to review decisions before implementing them with the awareness of my bias to ensure that my actions do not affect black and minority ethnic people adversely.

If I was an examiner, investigator, police, judge, etc I would want my decisions to be counterbalanced by a formal algorithm to prevent my bias from hurting BME people.

I am not in an unusual category as far as my bias is concerned; I am part of the largest category of persons who have taken this test. How does this affect the society?

We need to start somewhere.

I encourage you to take the test and post it publicly. I am happy to add your test result to this blog if you send it to me. Let us make a change. Let us reduce bias. Let us take the first real step by publicly acknowledging our own bias.

Here is the list of persons who have agreed to go public with their bias tests. My sincere thanks for permitting me to add their names:

Dr Kim Holt: 'slight automatic preference to black people over white people'

Dr Joe Karthikapallil (Ophthalmologist) : 'moderate automatic preference to white people over black people'.

Dr Joydeep Grover: 'no automatic preference between African Americans and European Americans'

Dr Vivek Chhabra (ED): 'no automatic preference between black people and white people'

Mr Bhavik Patel (Financial Sector) - ' slight bias towards white individuals compared to black individuals'


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