Last Updated on June 30, 2021

As a part of Inclusive Leadership training, Unconscious Bias workshops, and other equality and diversity courses, you might want to use this free Unconscious bias quiz as an ice-breaker or general activity in the training.

Unconscious bias training quiz activity

Activity Timeframe

  • Allow 10 minutes for this activity but you can make it a 5 or 15 minutes activity also as needed.

Instructions

Show the title of the slide but do not yet show the content of the slide until after the activity.

Cover slide asking what kinds of bias there are in the workplace

Ask participants to form groups of up to 4 people and choose a name for their team.

Give each group a copy of the ‘Bias-Quiz’ handout. (The questions are listed below if you need to create the handout)

Next, give each group up to 5 minutes to answer the questions on the sheet by ticking their chosen answers and write their team’s name at the top of the first page.

Then, ask each group to hand out their sheet of paper to the team next to them, so that they can check the correct answers. Give each group the ‘Bias-Quiz-answers’ handout, so they can check and score the other team’s responses. Allocate about 5 minutes for this.

After 5 minutes are up, ask each group to give back the sheet belonging to the other team, so they can see how they did.

Then, collect the scores and nominate the winning team.

If you want, you can give a small prize to the winning team (such as some sweets).

After-Activity Instructions

After the activity, show the items on the slide one by one and explain (the slide comes later on in this post).

As you explain, you can refer to some of the examples from the quiz, which illustrate some of the types of bias.

If you want, instead of just explaining the items on the list, you can have a Q&A session, whereby you ask participants what they think each item means, before giving your explanation. Also, you can ask them if they can provide some examples of each type of bias.

Below (after the online teaching suggestions), you will find an explanation for each of the items on the slide.

If you are teaching online

It may be easier to run this activity online as a poll, rather than a group activity.

You can share the handout document with your participants electronically.

You can then run a poll. Most learning management systems and some conferencing platforms, such as Zoom and Poll Everywhere, have a polling function.

Unconscious Bias Handout Questions

Team’s Name: [They enter their team name here]

Question 1

A group of researchers in America sent two fictional job applications to 127 professors for a position of laboratory manager. Both candidates were 22 years of age, had the same grades and the same references. The only difference was that one was called ‘John’ and the other one ‘Jennifer’. Can you guess what happened?

  • ‘Jennifer’ was more likely to be hired than ‘John’, with a starting salary of $4,000 more
  • ‘John’ was more likely to be hired than ‘Jennifer’, with a starting salary of $4,000 more
  • Both ‘John’ and ‘Jennifer’ were as likely to be hired and with the same starting salary

Question 2

Economists have found that the best-looking people make, on average, during their lifetime, a lot more money than less attractive people. Is this statement:

  • True?
  • False?

Question 3

In America, only 14.5% of men are estimated to have this attribute. However, almost 60% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies have it. What is it?

  • A college degree
  • A standing height of over six foot (1.80 meters)
  • IQ above 130

Question 4

A British study found that job applications with a British sounding name received a 24% positive response rate from employers. What positive response rate did candidates with the same CVs (resumes), but non-British sounding names receive?

  • 24%, the same as applicants with British sounding names.
  • 20%
  • 15%

Question 5

What percentage of hiring managers in the UK admit to a negative bias towards individuals with certain regional accents?

  • 10%
  • 80%
  • 30%

Question 6

Giving a job to a candidate you clicked with because you went to the same school, or are interested in the same hobbies, is not unconscious bias, especially if they are a different gender or ethnicity from you. Is this:

  • True?
  • False?

Question 7

If you perceive a colleague who is working flexible hours as lazy, it is not unconscious bias, if later they avoid some responsibilities. Is this:

  • True?
  • False?

Question 8

If one of your employees returns from maternity leave, it is unconscious bias to spare her the trouble of going on business trips or taking on extra responsibilities. Is this:

  • True?
  • False?

Question 9

Everybody has unconscious biases. Is this:

  • True?
  • False?

Question 10

We can only have unconscious bias towards people who are different from us. Is this:

  • True?
  • False?

Unconscious Bias Handout Answers

Answer 1

‘John’ vs ‘Jennifer’.

According to a 2012 Yale University study, male applicants were more likely to be hired and with a higher salary than female applicants. This in spite of having otherwise identical characteristics.

Answer 2

Good looking people make more money, on average, than less attractive individuals.

A – True. The economist Daniel Hamermesh, in the book Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, claims that beautiful people make, on average, during their lifetime, $250,000 more than less attractive people.

Answer 3

In America, only 14.5% of men are estimated to have this attribute. However, almost 60% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies have it. What is it?

B – A standing height of over six foot (1.80 meters).

In his book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell writes ‘In the US population, about 14.5% of all men are six feet or over. Among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that number is 58%.

Answer 4

British vs non-British names in CVs positive response rate.

C – 15%

A 2017 study by Anthony Heath and Valentina Di Stasio found that, on average, nearly one in four applicants from the majority group, i.e. with British sounding names (24%), received a positive response* from employers.

As for people with non-British sounding names, only 15% of them received a positive response despite having identical resumes and cover letters.

(*By ‘positive response’, the researchers meant any reply suggesting a genuine interest in the applicant, such as invitations to job interviews, requests to provide additional information on skills or previous experience, to complete a test or to schedule a phone appointment with the employer.)

Answer 5

What percentage of hiring managers in the UK admit to negative bias towards individuals with certain regional accents?

B – 80%

The law firm Peninsula, in 2015, run a survey in which 80% of UK managers admitted discriminating against people based on regional accents. In particular, accents from London, Liverpool, Birmingham Newcastle and Glasgow were the most discriminated against. This is just one of several studies worldwide about accent discrimination.

Answer 6

Giving a job to a candidate you clicked with because you went to the same school, or are interested in the same hobbies, is not unconscious bias.

B – False

This is an example of affinity bias, which means favoring someone because they share something in common with you, such as similar interests or educational background.

Answer 7

If you perceive a colleague who is working flexible hours as lazy, it is not unconscious bias, if later they avoid some responsibilities.

B – False

This is an example of confirmation bias. If we have an ingrained belief about something, we later seek evidence to confirm this belief.

So, for example, if you think that people who work flexible hours are lazy, you will look for any pattern in their behavior that confirms this. Conversely, if somebody who works normal hours adopts the same behavior, you might justify it, thinking it is just a one-off and finding a plausible explanation for it.

Answer 8

If one of your employees returns from maternity leave, it is unconscious bias to spare her the trouble of going on business trips or taking on extra responsibilities.

A – True

This is an example of so-called benevolence bias. You might think you are doing a new mum a favour by sparing her extra stress. However, this is for her to decide so you should at least ask her what she thinks.

Assuming that, because somebody just had a baby, she may not want extra responsibilities, implies unconscious assumptions on motherhood. Instead, everybody is different and assuming that someone wants to take it easy after having a baby might just harm her career.

Answer 9

Everybody has unconscious biases.

A – True

We can all have biases. Being biased does not mean being a bad person. Our brains have to constantly make decisions and they often rely on previous experiences or preconceptions, to speed up the decision process.

This is sometimes a good thing, especially when you need to make a quick life or death decision, as our ancestors would have had to do (for example, deciding if to run away from something that might be a predator). However, when these shortcuts lead to a biased decision at work and unwanted discrimination, this is a problem.

Answer 10

We can only have an unconscious bias towards people who are different from us.

B – False

We can be biased against people who belong to our same group.

For example, it is not uncommon to hear that some women are unconsciously biased towards other women, as they perceive them to be less professional than men. Likewise, it can happen that male executives see other males as less trustworthy or less hard-working than women.

Further Explanation of the Points on the Slide

Bias means having an inclination against or in favor of something. In the context of inclusion, we mean an inclination against or in favor of a group of people. This can lead to discrimination or favoritism, just based on the group a person belongs to.

Bias can be explicit, i.e., we are aware that we have a bias, or it can be unconscious. This happens when we are not even aware that we hold a bias.

The cases we have seen on the quiz are examples of biases, which are often unconscious.

Even those of us who have the best intentions in terms of inclusion and diversity can fall foul of unconscious biases. This is why becoming aware of all our biases is important, so that we can do something about them.

There are many different types of bias and here I have listed 16. Let’s take a look at them.

Affinity Bias

This means favoring someone because they share something in common with you, such as similar interests or educational background (see, for example, question number 6 of the quiz).

Conformity Bias

Conformity bias is linked to our desire, as humans, to fit in. So, instead of exercising our own judgement, we follow what others are doing. When we fall victim of this type of bias, we judge someone based on the views of the majority rather than making up our own mind about that person based on our interaction with them. Conformity bias may occur when we face peer pressure or are trying to fit into particular professional or social environments.

Contrast Bias

This is due to our tendency to compare things within the same category to one another. As we compare things, we upgrade or downgrade them based on how they do in comparison to other similar things, rather than on their own merit.

For example, we judge an employee based on another employee’s performance rather than on an established company standard.

Age Bias

This means favouring or penalizing someone based on their age.

Confirmation Bias

If we have made our mind up about something, we later use anything we witness as evidence to support our belief, while discounting anything that might disprove our belief (for example, see quiz question no. 7).

Halo/horn Bias

The halo effect takes place when one good quality of a person is used to assume that everything that person does is good, without looking at the evidence.

With the horn effect, it is the opposite. In this case, we use one bad thing a person did, to assume that everything they do is bad.

Attribution Bias

This means that, when there is a problem, we tend to explain our actions in terms of the circumstances (for example, ‘I am late because the traffic was bad’) and other people’s actions in terms of their character flaws (for example, ‘John is late because he is disorganized’).

This type of bias can also be seen in action with regards to categories of people. For example, if we apply it to gender bias, one could say ‘Mary’s team did well because she has great team members’ while ‘Robert’s team was successful because he is a great leader’.

Name Bias

This is a bias based on names. For example, a manager receives a CV and, instead of focusing on the skills and experiences, s/he focuses on the name at the top and whether they can pronounce it or not (see also quiz question no. 4).

Anchoring Bias

This is when we anchor our judgments about things or people based on the first piece of information we receive, even if this information is less important than other information we receive later.

For example, when hiring someone, we notice the college the candidate went to. As we like that college because it is prestigious or because we also went there, then we overlook all other information about that candidate, and we are biased in his/her favour.

Other pieces of information that can serve as an anchor are, for example, where a candidate lives, the car they drive, or if they grew up in the same town as you did.

Beauty Bias

This is judging someone on the base of how they look (see quiz question no. 2).

Color/culture Bias

This is judging someone based on the color of their skin or hair (for example, people with red hair still suffer from prejudice in many places) or on the culture they come from.

Height Bias

Taller people tend to attract positive bias (see quiz question no. 3)

Overconfidence Bias

Another aspect of the human psyche is that we have greater subjective confidence in our judgments than an objective assessment would warrant. We also tend to overestimate our own performance relative to that of others.
This type of bias can lead to mistakes, errors of judgment and also to conflict when overconfident people do not respond well to constructive criticism.

Similarity Bias

This means that we tend to trust and like people who are like us, while we distrust and like less those who are different from us.

Gender Bias

This is judging someone based on their gender.

Benevolence

This happens when our efforts to be kind to a person take away their chance to make a choice (see quiz question no. 8).

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Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds

Valeria has been involved with education for over 16 years. She has taught in the UK at the University of Bath and Cardiff Metropolitan University (where she got her PhD), in addition to working as a researcher at Exeter University. Valeria additionally has several years of experience of also working with Ofsted and Cardiff University in management roles & is she is the founder of Symonds Training.