Feds Spend $174,932 on 'Implicit Bias' Conference

Meeting will gather 'leading experts on racism and prejudice'

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August 21, 2017

The National Science Foundation is spending nearly $200,000 on an "implicit bias" conference.

The conference will gather "leading experts on racism and prejudice" to write a report on how to make unconscious bias training, which assumes that "everyone is a little bit racist or sexist," more effective.

"This project brings together experts on prejudice and discrimination to have a deep discussion and write up a report to understand what various measures of bias represent and best ways to measure implicit bias," according to the grant for the project. "During the past century, racial attitudes in America have been radically transformed. The country has shifted from one of explicit separation and discrimination to one endorsing multiculturalism and implementing policies to level the playing field and compensate for past discrimination."

"Surveys measuring public opinion in the United States have shown a slow and steady trend toward more endorsement of this new view," the grant continues. "Yet events continue to occur raising questions in the public mind about whether racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination continue to be prevalent and consequential in America."

Stanford University received $174,932 for the conference in July. It is unclear when and where the conference will take place. Request for comment from Jon Krosnick, a political science professor who is leading the project, was not returned.

The overall goal of the conference is to "bring together a group of the leading experts on racism and prejudice to review the literature, discuss strengths and weaknesses of existing evidence, and identify fruitful directions for future work."

The implicit bias conference will look at whether scientific evidence backs up current unconscious bias training that has become prevalent in corporate America, and in government agencies.

Unconscious bias training was popular under the Obama administration. The training was mandated for the Justice Department last year, and the intelligence community brought in a "global diversity" manager from Google for a seminar on implicit bias.

"[M]any companies and government agencies are now spending considerable resources to train workers to minimize the impact of such bias on the work they do caring for medical patients, enforcing laws, and much more," the grant states. "These efforts are based on the presumption and research that racism and other forms of bias are prevalent in contemporary society and shape people's decisions and behavior in important ways. Are these presumptions justified by the existing body of scientific evidence? And are the expenditures of businesses, police departments, and other government agencies well founded and likely to be successful in optimizing thinking and action?"

Krosnick has done several studies on climate change, including a study that concluded "Fox News exposure may have induced some individuals to adopt attitudes and beliefs skeptical about global warming." Another study concluded anti-black racism played a role in the 2008 presidential election, "perhaps considerably reducing Obama's share of the vote."

Barack Obama defeated John McCain by nearly 10 million votes in an electoral landslide.

Krosnick also believes "all decision-making is unconscious," according to a 2015 interview he gave to the BBC.