The word implicit, from the dictionary, is defined as:
- something that is implied, but not plainly expressed, OR: present but not consciously held or recognized
The word explicit, on the other hand, is defined as:
- fully revealed or expressed without vagueness, implication, or ambiguity
In the context of bias, then, explicit biases are the ones we are aware of and may even express outwardly; these biases are the ones that cause hate crimes and violence – if the biased individuals feel compelled to act on their beliefs.
Implicit biases are the biases we hold on a subconscious level, biases we may not be aware of, yet these beliefs still run our conscious thoughts and actions. To this end, implicit biases have real consequences on those who are being biased against, even though their actions are not done with awareness or obvious intent.
Implicit biases cause us to have certain subtle emotional responses to certain groups; those subtle emotions color our thoughts, which in turn color our actions. An example of an implicit bias might look like the following: A female teacher who believes in gender equality and even campaigns for women’s rights, yet still tends to call on her male students more in math class due to an implicit belief that boys are better at math than girls. Another, more potentially harmful example, is that of a white doctor who tends to ignore pain complaints from his patients of color more than those who are white due to an implicit belief that people of color are less trustworthy, or because they unconsciously empathize more with other white people. ( This example is far from hypothetical; read more about the research done on this particular implicit bias here.)