skip to Main Content


Welcome to the Youthlinc Impact Modules. All participants will complete monthly impact modules that will address issues of bias, white saviorism, and mental health. These modules will help participants to understand themselves and others before traveling internationally. These modules help us become better humanitarians and set us up for sustainable best practices while we are serving abroad.


What is Bias?

What is Implicit Bias? What does bias look like?

Where do we see bias in action?

Confirmation Bias, Halo Effect, Anchoring Bias, Attribution Bias, Small numbers Bias.

How can we interrupt bias?

You can continue this journey by examining your initial reactions to people, places, and things and challenging your gut-instinct perceptions.

SECTION 1: What is Bias?

At any given moment, we receive over 11 million bits of information from the world around us, but we can only consciously process 40 bits of information at a time. Our unconscious mind, however, can process much more information, and it does so by using a series of mental shortcuts and filters, based on past experiences, cultural and societal norms, and personal beliefs—also known as implicit bias.

Simply put, a bias is a preconceived opinion in favor or against one thing, person, or group compared with another. This extends to the people, locations, objects, and concepts in our lives. You may be biased towards the color blue or music that features acoustic guitars, or biased against garlicky foods or impressionistic art. Though we often use the term bias negatively, it isn’t inherently bad.

Implicit bias affects our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner through our pre-existing attitudes and stereotypes. These biases can be neutral, positive, or negative. Additionally, your implicit biases may directly contradict your explicit beliefs or intentions. For example, you may strongly believe that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be able to love whoever they choose. If you grew up in a more socially conservative environment, however, you may still hold implicit biases against LGBTQ+ relationships, even if you’re not consciously perceiving your biases.

Our brains are hardwired to fill in the missing pieces or gaps in a story or situation based on our personal experiences, beliefs, or cultural/societal norms. This can lead to oversimplifying situations or people, evaluating a person or situation based on a previously positive or negative experience with similar attributes. We place more importance on our own experiences, or current and past situations. This can cause us to put those who have similar perspectives or experiences into a favorable “in group” and everyone else in a less or not-favorable “out group” and overestimating the importance of our own experiences and choices.

Play Video

What Does Bias Look Like?

When referring to people, we typically think of bias in terms of ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, but bias can be anything! You can be biased for or against:

  • People who grew up in your area
  • Graduated from your alma mater
  • Have a similar taste in music
  • Are generally personable
  • Have a similar way of speaking as you
  • Or any other trait you can think of

This can translate into being more favorable towards a fellow student or colleague based on a shared love of a specific author. Conversely, you may have a generally negative perception of someone whose taste in music is the polar opposite of yours.

SECTION 2: Where Do we See Bias In Action?

Now that we’ve talked about what implicit bias is, let’s discuss why it’s important. Bias seeps into every aspect of our lives. It’s natural for you to draw associations towards people, places, and things based on your own experiences. While it can be relatively harmless, like in the case of getting along particularly well with a colleague who speaks similarly to you, it can be highly problematic and dangerous when we begin to draw these conclusions towards classes of people. Our brains create perceived patterns according to race, religion, gender, or other aspects of identity, which can have far reaching effects when it comes to academic and workplace opportunities, who we associate with, and even the safety of individuals in our society.


What we see portrayed in the news and media, as well as the conversations we have with those around us, can influence our thinking more than we know. For instance, portrayals of women as homemakers and housewives in popular media can carve associations in our thinking. You may consciously believe women are just as adept at men in the workplace, but if you implicitly associate women with housework, you may unconsciously judge them more harshly for shortcomings on the job.

Let's start with some types of bias:

Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias describes our tendency to interpret new evidence or recall information as a confirmation of pre-existing beliefs or ideas.
The Halo Effect
The Halo Effect occurs when our impression of someone (or something) unconsciously influences our opinion of a different aspect of their character.
Anchoring Bias
Anchoring Bias occurs when we’re overly influenced by older information, or an “anchor,” when we interpret a new situation. This “anchor” is usually the first piece of information we hear, or what we are used to.
Attribution Bias
Attribution Bias or Fundamental Attribution Error refers to our tendency to project negative traits onto someone when they make a mistake, rather than blaming the mistake on circumstances. In other words, we tend to justify our own mistakes by explaining the circumstances that led to it, but we are frequently not so generous with other people.
Small Numbers Bias
Small Numbers Bias occurs when we overgeneralize about a group, culture, or society based on too little evidence.

Now that we know some common types of bias, what do these look like in our daily lives?


In school, you might be used to rushing to finish a big assignment the night before it’s due. If you consistently get good grades for these assignments, you can fall victim to Confirmation Bias by assuming you work best under pressure. This can cause you to continue procrastinating work until the last moment because it’s worked well for you in the past. Your teacher might have had a handful of students in previous years that all dressed similarly and each caused classroom disruptions or turned in incomplete assignments. Based on their past experiences, your teacher might be influenced by Small Numbers Bias, assuming that all people who dress that way are going to be terrible students and therefore not giving them the resources needed to thrive.


At work, you might have a colleague who wears elegant and professional clothing every day to the office. Based on their choice of outfits, you could experience The Halo Effect, perceiving them as more competent than other coworkers, even if their work doesn’t reflect that. Perhaps you’re working with a colleague on a project with a tight deadline and they make a mistake that sets you back significantly. You might judge them harshly, feeling as though they don’t know how to do their job or shouldn’t be in their role. This would be an example of Attribution Bias. Rather than taking the context of the stressful timeline this project has into consideration, we tend to jump towards character judgments. Your teacher might have had a handful of students in previous years that all dressed similarly and each caused classroom disruptions or turned in incomplete assignments. Based on their past experiences, your teacher might be influenced by Small Numbers Bias, assuming that all people who dress that way are going to be terrible students and therefore not giving them the resources needed to thrive.


In your local service, you might work with the homeless population through a food kitchen. While volunteering, one particular person you’re helping could be unwilling to follow the rules or complete a minor task in order to get their meal. If you have a preconceived belief that homeless people are defiant or lazy, this could be strengthened through Confirmation Bias. If you volunteer through Real Life, one of Youthlinc’s five core programs that provides after-school programming for refugee and immigrant students, you might work with a group of Pakistani students who all excel at math. This can lead to Small Numbers Bias if you extrapolate your experience to mean all Pakistani people are generally good at math.


When researching your upcoming Service Year trip to Kenya, you learn that Kenya has an extreme poverty rate and nearly 8 million Kenyans live on less than $1.90 per day. You know how difficult that would be in the United States, so you sympathize with these poor Kenyans. This is an example of Anchoring Bias, and can be seen in multiple ways. Firstly, your knowledge of how far $1.90 gets you is based on the information you know in your local area. Additionally, you might walk into your Service Year trip with the impression that Kenyans absolutely need your help, ignoring the lifestyle they’ve been maintaining since long before you entered the country. Perhaps while working on your construction project, you notice that a lot of the locals take frequent breaks or are slow to help your team. This might lead to the conclusion that all Kenyans don’t work very hard through the Small Numbers Bias.

SECTION 3: How Can We Interrupt Bias?

While we like to think of ourselves as rational and logical people, the reality is a lot of our thought processes are occurring unconsciously without our intention and control. Those implicit processes, when activated, can derail even the most sincere explicit intentions. You may ask yourself, how do we combat the presence of implicit bias in our lives?

Well, you’ve already taken the first step! Being aware of the fact that implicit bias exists and influences your thinking is essential in interrupting your biases. By simply reading through this module and critically analyzing your own experiences, you’ve started your journey to thinking about the world with less influence from unconscious bias. You can continue this journey by examining your initial reactions to people, places, and things and challenging your gut-instinct perceptions.

Here are a few questions that can help with that:

How are personal experiences, beliefs, or cultural and societal norms shaping my perspective?
Have I sought out new or different perspectives on this topic?
What from my lived experiences has led to this perception?
How might someone else see this situation differently?
What data or external perspectives can I use to challenge my observation?

Continually check in with your thought process to see what assumptions you’re making and stop them in their tracks. When you feel a certain way about someone or something, look for differing opinions and unbiased evidence to validate or invalidate your perception. Remember: you’re not alone! Lean on your team members, family, and friends to check your biases and be open to giving and receiving criticism about your perceptions.


Back To Top