How Unethical Are You

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How (Un)ethical Are You?

Most of people believe that they are ethical and unbiased. They imagine they’re good decision makers, able to objectively size up a job candidate or a venture deal and reach a fair and rational conclusion that’s in their, and their organization’s, best interests. But more than two decades of research confirms that, in reality, most of them fall woefully short of our inflated self-perception. This article explores four related sources of unintentional unethical decision making:

1. Implicit Prejudice: Bias that emerges from unconscious beliefs Most fair-minded people strive to judge others according to their merits. What makes implicit prejudice so common and persistent is that it is rooted in the fundamental mechanics of thought. Early on, we learn to associate things that commonly go together like rain and thunder or gray hair and old age. But aour associations only reflect approximations of the truth; they are rarely applicable to every encounter. Because we automatically make such associations to help us organize our world, we grow to trust them, and they can blind us to those instances in which the associations are not accurate. Because implicit prejudice arises from the ordinary and unconscious tendency to make associations, it is distinct from conscious forms of prejudice, such as overt racism or sexism. This distinction explains why people who are free from conscious prejudice may still harbor biases and act accordingly. Biases are also likely to be costly. In controlled experiments, psychologists Laurie Rudman at Rutgers and Peter Glick at Lawrence University have studied how implicit biases may work to exclude qualified people from certain roles. One set of experiments examined the relationship between participants’ implicit gender stereotypes and their hiring decisions. Woman was less likely to be socially than the man, though their qualifications were in fact the same. Legal cases also reveal the real costs of implicit...
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