Question: What is the meaning of unconscious bias and the biological processes that bring it about
The social neuroscience of unconscious bias research on linguistic concepts may shed light on systemic unintentional discrimination. One such concept we wish to study is Cerebral Palsy (CP), specifically the biological processes involved in the formation of symbols and stereotypes that we later come to automatically relate to the syndrome. The neural representation of the concept of CP could be connected to negative patterns in brain activity, and the over-activation of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenocortical axis, (HPA-axis). This neural representation could result in an increased volume of cortisol reactivity in both the person that hears and the person that speaks the term, with the potential to generate unconscious discriminatory behavior.
The present paper analyzes the meaning of unconscious bias and the biological processes that bring it about, with regards to how they impact the way society regards and relates to the Cerebral Palsy community. In addition to the physical burdens they must face, people living with Cerebral Palsy are subjected to social rejection, further negatively impacting their quality of life. While negative biases and discrimination are often understood to be deliberate and ill-intentioned, science shows that people do not have full control over their brains’ formation of patterns and stereotypes. A number of biological factors — such as the increased and continued release of cortisol, the primary stress hormone — play a role in discriminatory ideas, attitudes, and behavior.
We conclude that a deeper understanding of how negative unconscious biases develop on a biological level can be the first step toward combatting their negative outcomes, both for people living with Cerebral Palsy and those who come into contact with them. This conclusion indicates that bias and discrimination are not necessarily the results of personal moral failings, and it indicates a need for further research on the subject.