ANALYSIS: Do implicit bias trainings actually work? These studies raise important questions.

According to recent studies, there appears to be a lack of evidence that implicit bias training is effective regarding its validity and reliability.

One 2016 study found that bias training can be counterproductive, angering and threatening White men by making them feel discriminated against.

University of California Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office put on two anti-racism workshops amid a multitude of academic literature questioning the validity, reliability, and effectiveness of implicit bias training.

The workshops, which ran Mar. 7-10, were titled "(Racial) Microaggressions" and "Power & (White) privilege." 

"This workshop will provide an overview of how (Racial) Microaggressions are the enacted form of Implicit Biases," the first workshop's description reads. "We will explore the internal dilemma victims experience; the types of racial microaggressions; their hidden messages; offenders’ typical responses and stated intent; the impact on injured party; and what one can do to mitigate the offenses."

However, according to recent studies, there appears to be a lack of evidence that implicit bias training is effective regarding its validity and reliability.

[RELATED: University of Arkansas spends over $40k teaching offended students to say 'Ouch!']

University of Toronto Mississauga professor Ulrich Schimmack found that there is not sufficient evidence that the Implicit Association Test has construct validity, which means that there is not enough evidence to prove that it measures what it is intended to measure.

“Most important, I show that few studies were able to test discriminant validity of the IAT as a measure of implicit constructs. I examine discriminant validity in several multimethod studies and find little or no evidence of discriminant validity,” Schimmack writes in the abstract of the article.

Additionally, a 2017 study found that the test-retest reliability of implicit bias tests was low, meaning that if one was to take the test twice with a period of time in between testing, their scores would not be consistent.

Furthermore, a 2019 study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that procedures to change implicit biases are "often relatively weak" and did not necessarily result in a change of explicit behaviors, which are those that are conscious and deliberate.

Evidence published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2016 found that bias training can be counterproductive, angering and threatening White men by making them feel discriminated against.

[RELATED: Vanderbilt uses 'Feelings Wheel' for diversity training]

UCSB student Cesar Martinon told Campus Reform, "I understand that these institutions want to make these learning centers a more welcoming place, but to use methods and techniques that are increasingly being shown to be unreliable is worrisome."

The "(Racial) Microaggressions" workshop included a prerequisite that includes watching an implicit bias video series comprising a preface and six lectures from University of California, Los Angeles: ‘Bias and Heuristics,’ ‘Schemas,’ ‘Attitudes and Stereotypes,’ ‘Real World Consequences,’ ‘Explicit v. Implicit Bias,’ ‘The IAT,’ and ‘Countermeasures.’

The workshops were led by Professional Development Officer for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Rebecca Ritarita Refuerzo and Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ben J. Refuerzo.

Campus Reform reached out to Ben Refuerzo, Rebecca Refuerzo, UCSB, and Ulrich Schimmack for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

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