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Understanding Implicit Bias: The Power of Reflection

Learners gain insight on themselves when they reflect on their own perceptual and cognitive biases

Developed by Elizaveta Friesem, Media Education Lab

LESSON 1: Edward Adelson’s Checkerboard Illusion

LESSON 2: The Implicit Association Test

LESSON 3: Considering the Consequences of Implicit Bias Overview


Students develop a better understanding of their own biases by discovering Edward Adelson’s checkerboard illusion and discuss what this illusion reveals about our brain’s ability to perceive “objective” reality. They use this discovery to reflect on the way they communicate with each other, including their use of mediated forms of communication. Students take the Implicit Association Test and discuss implicit biases/stereotypes that this test reveals. They explore the brain’s propensity to categorize people and reflect on the way implicit biases and categorization influence how people interpret and create media messages with stereotypes. Finally, students choose to create some form of media to reflect on their learning by composing a poem, rap or song lyric, a set of three memes, or a journal entry. Please watch the orientation video below before using the lesson plans.

Learning Objectives:

  • Discover features of our brain’s perception that influence communication between people
  • Reflect on biases and how they shape media texts we receive and produce
  • Discover stereotypes that can influence our actions  
  • Reflect on how these stereotypes manifest themselves in media texts we produce

Common Core State Standards

1) CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.6 (Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information).

2) CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.9 (Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research).

3) CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1 (Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively).

Vocabulary Terms Used in these Lessons

Implicit attitudes: Settled ways of thinking and feeling (about different objects, people, and phenomena) that we are not aware of.

Implicit biases: Unconscious prejudice in favor or against certain kinds of people.

Objectivity: Lack of bias and prejudice, seeing things the way they “really are.”

Subjectivity: The quality of being influenced by one’s personal feelings and opinions.

Stereotype: Mental shortcut, generalized and simplified understanding of a particular type of person or thing.

Social group: Subset of society consisting of people who share similar characteristics.

Categorization: The process of defining objects, people, and phenomena by placing them into classes or groups.