Societal and Managerial Implications of Implicit Social Cognition: Why Milliseconds Matter

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Abstract

This article argues for the vulnerability of managerial work to unintended forms of racial and other bias. Recent insights into “implicit social cognition” are summarized, highlighting the prevalence of those mental processes that are relatively unconscious and automatic, and employed in understanding the self and others. Evidence from a response-time measure of implicit bias, the Implicit Association Test, (“IAT”; Greenwald, McGhee, and Schwartz, 1998) illustrates this phenomenon. Recent work on the predictive validity of the IAT demonstrates that social cognitive pitfalls threaten a) managers' explicit commitments to egalitarianism and meritocracy and b) managers' performance in their three primary roles of processing information, interacting with others, and making decisions (Mintzberg, 1973). Implicit bias influences managerial behavior in unexpected ways, and this influence is heightened in the messy, pressured, and distracting environments in which managers operate.

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