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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Rappers, Researchers, and Realities: Exploring Unconscious Bias in Qualitative Research

Posted By Janet Standen, Thursday, July 30, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Rappers, Researchers, and Realities: Exploring Unconscious Bias in Qualitative Research

Presenter: Cynthia Harris, 8:28 Consulting

cynthia harris

Summary of Conference Session
Cynthia took us on a thought-provoking journey, drawing synergies between rap music and qualitative research. She provided helpful tips that can help us identify our own implicit bias, and specifically referenced tools we could turn to, to help us overcome the impact that our inherent and unavoidable biases may have on our qualitative research practices.

Key Session Takeaways

  • In the same way rap music gives a voice to historically marginalized people, our work can give consumers a voice within the companies we serve.
  • Insights, when delivered well, should have a “stickiness” to them, just like a catchy beat in rap music.
  • An activity reminded us that outside of family, the people we trust most in our life (i.e., those we choose to know), are often “just like us.” They reflect our own bias, defined as “an inclination of temperament or outlook.” They are part of our in-group.
  • We also tend to have greater positive regard, cooperation, and empathy to in-group members over out-group members—dangerous if you are a qualitative researcher.
  • Bias can be a good thing, and we are biologically wired for bias decision-making (such as knowing the difference between a cute, cuddly dog and a wild dog). But it also has the potential to be harmful if it narrows our thinking based on non-factual data points (i.e., based on our perceptions and biases that are in us).
  • We must be careful not to bias our research learning by accidentally asking leading questions that can unintentionally influence the responses we receive. Cynthia provided the example of the Loftus & Palmer Study in 1974, when eyewitness testimony of the estimated speed a car was traveling just before a car accident varied from 40.8mph to 34 mph, depending whether the word “smashed” or “hit” was used when witnesses were asked about what they saw.
  • The language used to deliver our learning to stakeholders can bias our delivery and therefore our audience take-outs.
  • We must analyze recorded data from our research, not use our memory of what we learned, to ensure we better reflect the true content, not our memory of the content (that will likely be influenced by our own biases.)
  • Do not be racist or ageist—by 2050 the majority of the U.S. population will be non-white, and people over 65 will outnumber those younger than 18!

Aha Moment
Stay open-minded and remember to not judge a book by its cover. Our biases are hidden, often even from ourselves, so we must take steps to be more aware of them. One tool is the free Implicit Association Test, which can be found at:

Never forget we have bias, so plan for it and account for it. As qualitative researchers, we have a huge responsibility not to let our bias impact the validity of our research findings. Our minds are “automatic association-making machines,” so we have to work at not being automated, but must manage our humanity!

janet standenReporter on the Scene: Janet Standen, Scoot Insights

Tags:  avoiding bias in qualitative research  implicit bias  unconscious bias 

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