We all have different reactions when faced with making decisions. We might feel overwhelmed by choices or fearful of making the wrong decision. Excitement or freedom can also accompany a decision. Add to the mix factors like a short timeline, incomplete information, or risk; it only raises the stakes further. Depending on the weight of the decision, you, like me, have probably experienced all of these reactions. But how often do we consider the ways that our unconscious influences our decision-making?
Unconscious Activity Can Predict Our Behavior
We assume that the decisions we make – especially the important ones like who we hire and who we surround ourselves with – are made thoughtfully and consciously. A study by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft used sophisticated computer programs to track the brain activity patterns of participants who could freely decide if they wanted to press a button with their left or right hand. They found that monitoring brain activity could predict “even up to 7 seconds ahead of time — how a person is going to decide.” There is undoubtedly power behind our unconscious mental activity.
Invisible Bias – How to Prevent it
The unconscious is the part of the mind that is inaccessible to the conscious mind but affects behavior and emotions. This makes it challenging to address, let alone identify, biases that exist unconsciously within us. How can we mitigate biases that run deeper than our awareness?
Paying attention to our actions and our decisions can give us a better idea of what exists within our unconscious mind. Still, we must accept that there is much we will never fully understand about our minds and the unconscious factors that influence our actions. Knowing this allows us to put mechanisms in place to prevent making decisions for who we hire based on unconscious bias. Tools can enable us to make more objective decisions by flagging or redacting any details or information that are superfluous and hinder rather than help the recruiting process. In this way, ensuring that we are not subjecting candidates to our hidden biases that show up in the way we write job descriptions, screen candidates, and conduct interviews.