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Should companies use implicit association tests to screen potential hires?

Silent Cal          2 September 2015 02:43 PM


Implicit association tests provide a quantitative method to assess unconscious bias against particular groups. While almost everyone in modern society has some such biases, minimizing them might create a better and more productive environment. It's also interesting to consider how people might behave if their employment prospects depended on successfully debiasing themselves. Is this a good idea?



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melian 3 September 2015 07:03 AM
77%

I think that each company should have complete freedom in selecting their employees. Screening out potential racists, hiring only left-handed people or only members of a certain race – all such practices should be legal. Without government interference, the companies that truly create a more productive environment would eventually drive their competitors out of business.

That said I very much doubt that using implicit associations tests would be a good business strategy. Besides my own subconscious biases (the first associations brought to my mind by this idea were “thoughtcrime” and “1984”), I have the following reasons:

1) The way the current tests are done is unscientific. I have taken several tests myself and once, for the purpose of experiment, I’ve checked the wrong ethnicity box. The test result was that I’m biased against my own ethnic group.

2) People that are biased against each other may still have successful collaborations. Group biases are generally less important than the relations between individuals.

3) Finally, all people have biases. Sometimes biases can be positive instead of negative, but one cannot completely get rid of them. This is just how our minds operate.


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Jiro 17 September 2015 03:53 PM
71%

I've never found believable the idea that companies won't discriminate because it's not a good business strategy. Buying a yacht isn't a good business strategy either, but business owners still buy yachts. In general, people buy luxuries, and discrimination that is bad for business is just another form of luxury.

It's less likely that a publicly held corporation would discriminate on these grounds, since they are not *supposed* to buy luxuries for their owners and can't funge between the owner's personal property and the business, but there are still plenty of cases of such corporations trying to buy as many luxuries for the executives as they can get away with. They don't all go bankrupt. (And if you permit discrimination, it will certainly be a luxury that they can legally get away with.)

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Silent Cal 3 September 2015 09:54 AM
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Wait, by 1), do you mean that you're an X, and when you take the test as an X it says you're biased against Ys, but when you check the Y box the results say you're biased against Xs?

2, 3) Of course everyone has biases, and it's possible to live with them. But people vary in how strongly they harbor various biases, and I would find it very surprising if greater unconscious racism/sexism/etc. did not on average reduce the effectiveness of collaboration with members of the biased-against groups (and also make life worse for those members, possibly impeding your company's recruiting ability)

And while it may seem scary to judge individuals for something in their heads they can't control, isn't screening for intelligence exactly that?

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melian 3 September 2015 12:43 PM
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do you mean that you're an X, and when you take the test as an X it says you're biased against Ys, but when you check the Y box the results say you're biased against Xs?

No, they had separate tests for different ethnicities. Before starting a test for each ethnicity you were supposed to check the box on whether you belong to that ethnicity.
I would find it very surprising if greater unconscious racism/sexism/etc. did not on average reduce the effectiveness of collaboration with members of the biased-against groups

If unconscious biases were so important, I would expect companies in countries where such biases are generally much stronger (e.g., Singapore) not being able to compete with their western competitors.
it may seem scary to judge individuals for something in their heads they can't control

What made “1984” so scary to me when I first read it is precisely the ... read more


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VoiceOfRa 3 September 2015 11:57 PM
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Of course everyone has biases, and it's possible to live with them. But people vary in how strongly they harbor various biases, and I would find it very surprising if greater unconscious racism/sexism/etc.


What definition of "bias" are you using that the type of "racism/sexism/etc." counts as a "bias"? Or does having true aliefs now count as a "bias"?


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VoiceOfRa 3 September 2015 11:21 PM
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That said I very much doubt that using implicit associations tests would be a good business strategy. Besides my own subconscious biases (the first associations brought to my mind by this idea were “thoughtcrime” and “1984”), I have the following reasons:


The even bigger problem with current implicit association tests is that they don't actually screen against biases. They screen for politically incorrect aliefs that happen to correspond to reality. Thus you are likely to wind up with a bunch of fanatical left-wing ideologues with poor observational skills who are liable to find an excuse to sue you for racism/sexism/etc. anyway.


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