Dr. Flora: Rural Stereotyping/Implicit Bias. Click Launch Presentation to
play the interview of Dr. Amanda Flora, a professor at Capella
University. Dr. Flora shares her insights and research on implicit bias,
particularly as it relates to rural population.
Rural Stereotyping/Implicit Bias
An Interview with Dr. Amanda Flora
Bias is -- it is a common term that we use in counselor education, but
one of the most common forms of bias that most people talk about or are
most familiar with is stereotyping, and as many times as we are working
on self awareness and we feel like we are very comfortable with the
variety of diverse population, everyone stereotypes, it is a cognitive
process, the power brains were programmed to work and if you think about
it, it makes sense. We need to be able to take little bits of
information and process it quickly.
The example that you will see in a lot of literature is if you are
driving down the highway and you see a police car, quickly your brain
knows to slow down, or maybe there is an accident, or you are speeding,
but there is that immediate reaction in just a short amount of time with
a little bit of stimulus. So our brain wants to stereotype, it is just
that in society and we become a more culturally diverse in global
society that same brain mechanism does not work very well in terms of
judging and categorizing people.
Types of Bias
Explicit and implicit bias are two other types of bias we explore.
Explicit bias is very related to stereotyping, it is the known bias, or
the ones we know we have. The one that is trickier the one that is
harder to recognize is implicit bias or unconscious bias and that is
basically, literally what I just said are unconscious bias. And
something we may not be aware we have and this is the really important
topic to explore for reasons such as affirmative action. Affirmative
action guards against things like explicit bias, but there is really
nothing to guard potential oppressed people from implicit bias.
Increasing Our Awareness
Hopefully on the program with Capella, we certainly strive to use case
studies and that sort of thing to help make learners aware through the
discussions on the course room. Of course, supervision, conversation
with your supervisor, all of these are important ways to maybe uncover
implicit bias or even discuss explicit biases that you have. The
immersion on the discussions on the different cultures and learning from
different people and going to help anyone become more aware of
different things and others cultures or oppressed individuals that they
may not have thought of before.
One of the interesting things though that I would recommend to all
learners and even though it may not be part of the course curriculum, I
recommend students take what is called the Implicit Bias Test. And what
this is, it is a test developed by some researches at Harvard and the
University of Washington, since moved to the University of Virginia and
Harvard. Basically, it is a test, to test your implicit bias.
A little bit about the test is that before this test, researchers had to
rely on self-report measures. Most people are not going to say, �oh, I
have this stereotype� or �I have this explicit bias.� So, with
technology, they feel like they can create a way to measure unconscious
bias by looking at stimulus and response times.
And I could go in some more detail about the validity of the test and
the reliability and how they create and how they measure it, but the key
thing to remember is right now this is the only way we can explore any
implicit or unconscious bias. Self-report measures are just not going to
show us that we use technology and measuring a different, and the time
it takes someone to respond.
And not only does the test show us all sorts of different things about
possible unconscious implicit bias as they may have, it also can uncover
things like favoritism that we may we have toward a certain group, even
a group that is not our own. So, it is a really fascinating test and as
you do it, you are helping them gain data for the project.
I was really immersed in the research years ago, I am sure they have
gone through more and gotten more information, but they also look at
things other than race. They looked at obesity and other issues in our
culture, and so it is a really a fascinating study and it is going to be
important in future years as we use technology to discover biases, we
were not able to measure 10-15 years ago.
Bias Toward Rural Populations
Well, I found out a lot of things much more than I expected, which I
think is the case with most research. I became very familiar with
implicit bias for the dissertation process on rural stereotyping, but as
it turns out, rural stereotyping is an explicit bias, so the implicit
bias did not come in to it.
But basically I wanted to work at rural stereotyping based on personal
observations and observations in the media. Basically, if you think
about it whether it is a TV show or commercial, there seems to be an
image of someone from a rural area as a simpleton, or less
sophisticated. You add a southern accent to the mix, then whoa, then
that is a really dumb person so to speak, they are not portrayed well in
the media if you are from a rural area.
On the other hand the rural area itself is painted differently and that
it is quaint and beautiful and it is a fun place to live and everyone is
friendly. So you have this dichotomous image of what goes on in rural
areas. So there is this stereotype about rural areas and rural people
and it is pretty prevalent, I believe in the media, and so I wanted to
look more into that, because there was no research in our field on that.
What I found when I started was that, again, there is no research on it,
so I had to start from scratch and I had to go into other disciplines
and borrow from them. I even had to use some of the media. I used song
lyrics, and anything I could to show that there are people that feel
like they are stereotyped and have to say please do not judge me based
on what I could find in the media. So I had enough borrowing from other
disciplines and borrowing from media. I was able to say, look, this is a
bias that exists we need to explore it in our profession, with that in
mind I explored it, I did a qualitative study and it was true, there is
explicit bias. People do look at, people from small towns as having less
education, being less intelligent, being less sophisticated, all of
those themes that were already existing in other disciplines and the
literature were confirmed through my study.
The other thing that I found is that a lot of the images were based on
truth and a lot of the stereotypes are true. Rural areas receive less
government funding per person, even when you account for the population
being smaller, they receive less government funding, and therefore,
public services such as schools have less resources. So it is a very
complicated issue and as we become more technological society, there is
going to be more urbanization.
And I think the risk is even going to grow further than it already is.
But the key take away is that people do stereotype someone based solely
on whether they are from a small town or not, aside of every other
image they could have of that person.
The other thing that I found that I was not expecting, it is not just
that people from rural areas are stereotyped and the ones that are from
there are really strongly identified with their small town identity,
that people from any geographic area tend to be really tied to their
identity. My husband is from New York, outside of New York City; that is
being from Long Island, you meet anybody else from Long Island and it
is like this little club. So it is a very interesting phenomenon that in
addition to the stereotyping, I have begun to see there is a geographic
identity that is mentioned in a lot of multicultural models, but maybe
it is a bigger piece of our identity than many people realize.
The first thing of course is to just have the awareness of the
individuals that you are working with. But again, to the community and
public policy, we as counselors there is this push toward advocacy and I
agree with that. In my opinion, it is a simple thing, I sometimes tell
young children when they are arguing, are you part of the solution or
part of the problem? It is a really simple idea and we have all heard
it, but are we going to be a part of people that do not -- are we going
to be part of the problem and think it is okay to send certain areas of
the country less money, are we going to be part of the solution and
advocate for that? And I think that is what counselor advocacy is about.
I really view advocacy from a Bronfenbrenner Model of what level do you
feel the most comfortable with? Do you feel individual action or all
the way up to the highest system? And I would encourage counselors as
they grow to reach out beyond, to start with individual advocacy and
move beyond into the different systems as you feel more comfortable.
Increasing Cultural Awareness
I imagine that the course that they are in now is certainly helping
them, but to never stop learning. But the biggest take away and the most
important thing I could stress regarding anything is jut to remember
not to define someone by the one characteristic of their identity. We
all have multiple identities. I am a mother, I am a woman, I am a wife, I
am a professor, I am a friend, I am a sister, I am a daughter, but
there are also my multicultural identities. And if you judge me by just
one, then you are judging me. And remember that just because you are in a
minority or you have close friends or a partner or a family member that
is in a minority that you are not automatically multi-culturally
Being multi-culturally sensitive means looking at an individual as
having multiple identities and not judging them from just one of their
identities. And the best way, again, is to just keep learning and talk
with the supervisor or a colleague or other trusted mentor, because the
beauty is once you recognize it, everyone has it, so it is okay to
recognize it, it just means you are human. Once you recognize it, you
have already taken a major step in avoiding treating a client
differently. And that is the ultimate goal.