Carnegie Mellon University

Understanding Implicit Bias Research and Its Implications

1. Each committee member is responsible for gaining an understanding of how implicit biases can impact their own and others’ evaluations in order to keep the search process fair and inclusive. Before the first committee meeting, it is recommended that all members of search committees either attend implicit bias training (see below) or review at least two of the following overviews of research on the unconscious biases in assessments that can affect decision making in the search process:

2. It is recommended that the search committee discuss the implicit bias research and related search committee strategies during the first search committee meeting before reviewing applicants to reinforce these concepts and their implications for the committee’s procedures. Search Committee Chairs are encouraged to contact their college Diversity Liaisons who can help facilitate this discussion. 

3. Developing ground rules for the committee’s work can be quite helpful to set the tone for following procedures consistent with the implicit bias research. For example, the search committee chair is encouraged to consider a combination of the following:

    • Engage all committee members in participating actively and maintain a climate where diversity can be discussed.
    • Discuss evaluation criteria prior to evaluating applicants and periodically throughout review to avoid shifting the criteria based on particular candidates.
    • Distinguish between the brief review that must be done for all applications and the thorough review required for those who are under consideration for interviews. For example, chairs can suggest retention of the excellent diverse candidates on the “long short list” or “medium list” for the thorough review.
    • Focus on reasons for including applicants for further consideration rather than reasons for excluding them since research has shown this promotes a more careful, deliberate process that reduces bias.
    • Encourage committee members, to the extent possible, to minimize distractions and allow sufficient time for their thorough review of the candidates under consideration for interviews.

Recommended Resources

Searching for Excellence and Diversity: A Guide for Search Committees, 2012 [.pdf] (U. Wisconsin Madison).

See two sections:

  • Tips and guidelines: Running an effective and efficient search committee (pp.11–16)
  • Raise Awareness of Unconscious Assumptions and their Influence on Evaluation of Applicants (pp. 43–50)

Implicit Bias Training at CMU

From University of Virginia’s Portal on Implicit Bias:

In a 2006 study, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that STEM fields employed fewer women because of implicit gender bias, unconscious stereotypes about the socially constructed roles men and women are expected to play at work and home (NAS 2006).

You may be thinking, “I don’t have any gender biases.” We all think this. We’re human. Each one of us has implicit biases rooted in cultural constructions of gender, race, ethnicity and other identities. These beliefs unconsciously find their way into our daily decision-making whether at work or in our personal life. 

Working with Google, faculty members Diana Marculescu (CIT), John Kitchin (CIT) and Carol Frieze (SCS) have developed implicit bias training workshops designed to increase awareness and mitigate its effects.

From CIT, Plaidvocates offers training on implicit bias in general and also a specialized workshop suitable for faculty searches.  To find out about upcoming sessions contact

From SCS, BiasBusters@CMU offers training on implicit bias in general.  To find out about upcoming sessions contact Carol Frieze.