Unconscious Bias


"The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story the only story."

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Danger of the Single Story, TED Global 2009




Kaja Köhnle

Karriereförderung und Vernetzung


+49 241 80 96569



What Is Bias?

We are usually not aware of bias, yet each and every one of us has unconscious prejudices, also called "unconscious bias". Prejudices influence our thoughts and actions and not always in a positive way. While they can often make our daily lives easier in harmless ways, they are quite difficult in a professional context. Stereotypical thought patterns can lead to discriminatory structures and discrimination against people.


Why Is Bias Harmful?

As a university, our goal is to promote social and scientific progress in fair cooperation. To this end, it is important to break down unconscious stereotypes and prejudices. Various studies prove that diverse teams are more successful, since they are generally more innovative and achieve better results. Diversity promotes humanity, creativity, and acceptance. Prejudices, on the other hand, counteract diversity and thus reduce success rates and mutual understandings.


What Can I Do?

We cannot simply turn off our unconscious thought patterns. But we can certainly reflect on them. We have to ask ourselves:

  • What privileges do I have?
  • What is the situation like around me?
  • Do I contribute to discriminating structures with my own behavior?
  • What consequences does this have for others and for me?
  • How do I want to deal with this in the future?

By reflecting on our own privileges and experiences of discrimination, we can heighten our awareness of existing power structures. This also helps us better understand the reality of other people’s lives.


The Anti-Bias Approach

The anti-bias approach focuses on the various forms of discrimination as an expression of unequal social power relations. The aim is to reduce prejudices and discrimination – both at the interpersonal and institutional, as well as at the socio-cultural level. RWTH also offers anti-bias formats as part of its staff development program.

This video on the subject comes from the University of Cologne and sums it up once again:

Play Video
Unconscious Bias by Uni Köln