Cultural biases and stereotypes are hard to stamp out, even among those who've had training specifically designed to counteract bias. In fact, implicit biases remain even after multicultural training, according to a study published in Training and Education in Professional Psychology (Vol. 2, No. 2).
State University of New York at Fredonia psychology professor Guy Boysen, PhD, studied the effects of multicultural training with more than 100 counselors at four universities. He placed the counselors in three groups based on their training experience: those who never had multicultural training; those who had completed a single training session; and those who received extensive training. The participants reported their levels of bias against African-Americans and gays and lesbians and then took an implicit bias test. The tests measured how easily participants associated those groups with words that have positive connotations ("friend") or negative connotations ("tragic").
People with the least multicultural training believed they were the least biased, perhaps because their lack of training made them less aware of what it means to be biased. But no matter how much training the counselors had, their implicit bias levels were about the same.
Because bias affects counselors' expectations and perceived norms of different cultural groups, it can lead to unequal counseling advice.
To overcome such attitudes, Boysen suggests that multicultural training programs target implicit biases by, for example, immersing students in other cultures. Doing so will help counselors to help all people equally.
"That's part of our ethical and moral responsibility," Boysen says.