J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Lemonade 101: Angelina Tsu?s Thoughts on Making the Most of Implicit Bias

The following article is a summary of Angelina Tsu’s “Lemonade 101: Making the Most of Implicit Bias,” the opening session at the April 2016 Women in Law Regional Conference in Orem, Utah. This presentation discussed implicit bias: what it is, how it affects both men and women, and most importantly, what we can do about it.

“What is implicit bias?” “I’m not really affected by it … am I?” “Well, what can I do about it?”  

 Tsu related two personal experiences, one dealing with an attorney via a series of emails who was very critical of her, and the second with a group of related professionals that expressed frustration with her in her role as Utah Bar Association president. A close male colleague with the Utah Bar Association acknowledged that she would not have experienced the criticism from either situation but for her gender. These experiences together caused Tsu to feel the weight of the world on her shoulders—she understood the confidence gap and the wage gap. She felt like a victim and there was nothing she could do. Then she stopped and reflected: is there something she could do in her daily life to help her feel more in control? This led her on an extensive journey to investigate implicit bias.

Tsu researched the science that proves that our subconscious minds take in so much more than our conscious mind. (Our subconscious mind helps us to make shortcuts, such as recognize a barking four-legged creature as a dog without having to go up to it, feel its fur, do a DNA test, etc.) The research demonstrates that women are more likely to be criticized, have facts/circumstances about them misremembered, have their mistakes remembered, be misdiagnosed, be prescribed sedatives/anti-depressants, and are less likely to receive a raise, promotion, job opportunity, or to be heard.

Interestingly, however, is research that demonstrates that happiness for all people is correlated to positive relationships with women. We find age-old adages that acknowledge this correlation: “Women are the thread that binds society.” Just think about your own life: women are the center of all events, dinners, and get-togethers. So on the one hand women suffer from implicit bias but on the other they are revered. The big question is how can we use what we know about implicit bias to our advantage as women?

Enter LIKABILITY. Consider how you cut people breaks if you like them. (Tsu offered a universally understood dating example: a guy went on a date with a girl. The next day he broke into her house to leave flowers and a note. If she liked him, she would consider it a sweet gesture. If she didn’t like him, she would be creeped out and may even file a police report! So what factors impact likability? As Tsu researched the “science of likability”, she discovered that women can use three factors to increase their likability and receive the same benefits as men have been profiting from:
  1. Law of Association—link yourself with positive stimuli. Talk to people when they’re in a good mood or excited about something. (Use someone’s eye contact to evaluate their mood.)
  2. Repeated exposure—the more someone sees you the more you are on their mind and the greater your likability. The caveat is that as long as the initial exposure was not negative, repeated exposure can be used to your advantage. An example of the use of repeated exposure is product placements in movies.
  3. Reciprocal affection—when you like someone else, they can pick up on that and your likability in their estimation is increased. Example: Tsu realized when she was clerking that her co-clerks seemed to arbitrarily like some people but not others. She couldn’t figure out why until she realized that it seemed to be based on whether the other lawyers liked the clerks. To use this to our advantage we should (1) let other people know we like them and (2) be vocal about nice things, i.e. talk them up.
Recognizing our implicit bias is the first step to overcoming it. Consider using Harvard Business Review’s online tool using word pairings and associations to discover what your implicit biases are: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html.) Then consider ways to create opportunities for women and/or other populations against whom people tend to be biased to purposefully work to increase their likability.

By: Danielle Dallas, Media Committee

Posted: May 27, 2016