A psychology researcher at UW-Madison has developed a process for breaking racial bias habits that can help organizations improve their workplace culture.

William Cox, the principal investigator at the Cox Stereotyping and Bias Research Lab, teaches people to identify their biased automatic responses to certain situations, focusing on strategies to change those thoughts. He explained this process at a recent luncheon held by Madison Women in IP.

“People who become powerful agents of change — we can equip them with tools that lead to them making changes within themselves, other people and their organizations,” he said. “This individual-level change can become institutional change.”

Over 12 years of research, Cox has found that his multi-step process and toolkit works for individuals as well as institutions. He compares cognitive behavior therapy to meditation, except the subject is gaining skills and the effects of the therapy persist for years.

“Intervention participants show lasting increases in self-reported awareness of their potential to express bias unintentionally, concern that racial bias is a serious problem and noticing bias in culture and in others around them,” said Cox, adding they’re also more likely to take action or speak out against bias.

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