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Beyond the Boomerang: How Generational Differences Shape Implicit Bias

by | May 2, 2023 | Blog, Industry News

Generational differences shape implicit bias in different areas, such as education, politics, and healthcare. Implicit biases are unconsciously held attitudes or stereotypes that shape our perceptions, actions, and decisions. These biases can significantly impact our daily interactions, even if we are unaware of them. This article investigates how different generations’ unique experiences and cultural backgrounds can influence their implicit biases, affecting various aspects of society.


What’s In The Article?

  • Understanding Implicit Bias
  • Generational Differences
  • The Intersection of Implicit Bias and Generational Differences
  • Analysis of Implicit Bias Across Generations
  • How Generational Differences Shape Implicit Bias
  • Ways to Address Generational Differences in Implicit Bias
  • Final Thoughts


Understanding Implicit Bias

Implicit bias is unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that influence our understanding, actions, and decisions. These biases are frequently the result of mental shortcuts that our brain employs to process information quickly, but they can result in unfair judgments and discriminatory behavior. Numerous scientific studies have shown that implicit biases impact areas such as hiring, law enforcement, and healthcare.


Generational Differences

Generational differences refer to the distinct cultural, societal, and historical experiences that shape the attitudes, values, and behaviors of people born within a specific period. Typically, generations are divided into groups that last 15 to 20 years. Here are some well-known generational cohorts:

  • Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964): This generation was born in the post-World War II era of economic prosperity and population growth. Hence the name “Baby Boomers,” and they witnessed significant social and political change, such as the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the feminist movement. As a result, Baby Boomers value hard work, stability, and interpersonal interaction. 
  • Generation X (born 1965-1980): Gen Xers, also known as the “latchkey” generation because both parents began to work outside the home, are known for their independence and resilience. They grew up during the rise of personal computing and witnessed major economic shifts, such as the 1987 stock market crash and the 2008 financial crisis. Gen X is more cynical, pragmatic, and entrepreneurial than previous generations.
  • Millennials (born 1981-1996): This generation grew up during the internet’s and globalization’s rise. They are frequently described as tech-savvy, value-driven, and welcoming of diversity and inclusion. Significant economic hardships, including the 2008 financial crisis, shaped Millennials’ attitudes toward work, saving, and financial stability.
  • Generation Z (born 1997-2012): The most diverse and technologically savvy generation yet, Gen Z has grown up in an age of social media, climate change, and global pandemics. They are perceived to be more comfortable with technology, value authenticity, and have a more global perspective than previous generations.

Each generation has distinct strengths, perspectives, and experiences that shape their worldview, and recognizing these differences can lead to improved communication, collaboration, and mutual understanding.


The Intersection of Implicit Bias and Generational Differences

Implicit bias and generational differences form a complex nexus that significantly impacts societal attitudes and behaviors. Understanding this intersection necessitates investigating how each generation’s distinct experiences, upbringing, and cultural context shape their implicit biases.

Historical events, cultural shifts, technological advancements, and societal norms shape generational experiences. For example, Baby Boomers grew up during the civil rights and feminist movements, Gen Xers during the rise of the internet, Millennials during the Great Recession, and Gen Z during a global pandemic and the prevalence of social media. These encounters shape each generation’s explicit attitudes and beliefs while informing their implicit biases — the unconscious attitudes and stereotypes they carry.

For example, due to gender norms prevalent during their formative years, a Baby Boomer may implicitly associate leadership with traditionally masculine traits. A Gen Xer who grew up at the dawn of the digital age may implicitly associate technology skills with younger generations. A Millennial raised during an increased emphasis on diversity and inclusion may have more positive biases toward multiculturalism. Meanwhile, members of Generation Z, the most ethnically diverse and digitally connected generation, may have implicit biases shaped by social media trends and global events viewed through a digital lens.

Furthermore, how different generations perceive and deal with biases can differ. Some generations may be more aware of implicit biases and actively work to combat them, whereas others may be less aware or less inclined to address them. This disparity can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and discrimination if not properly recognized and managed.

We can gain a more nuanced understanding of the societal impacts of implicit bias and how to best address it by examining the distinct experiences of each generation and how they shape unconscious attitudes and stereotypes.


Analysis of Implicit Bias Across Generations

As we investigate implicit bias, we must consider how these biases differ across generations. Each generation’s unique experiences, historical events, cultural shifts, and societal norms can significantly impact their implicit attitudes and stereotypes. This section will examine how implicit bias manifests in the Baby Boomer, Generation X, Millennial, and Generation Z generations. It will shed light on the generational nuances of implicit bias and emphasize the importance of addressing these biases to create a more inclusive and equitable society.


Baby Boomers and Implicit Bias

Baby Boomers grew up during significant societal change, including the civil rights and feminist movements. While these events may have increased awareness of explicit discrimination, Baby Boomers may still harbor implicit biases rooted in their upbringing’s societal norms.


Generation X and Implicit Bias

Rapid technological advancements and the rise of globalization exposed Generation X to a wider range of cultures and ideas. Although this exposure may have increased awareness of implicit biases, Gen Xers may still harbor biases from their formative years.


Millennials and Implicit Bias

Millennials grew up in an era of increased diversity and social progress. They are more conscious of implicit biases and are more likely to challenge them. On the other hand, millennials are susceptible to developing their own implicit biases, which may be shaped by their generation’s unique challenges and opportunities.


Generation Z and Implicit Bias

To date, Generation Z is the most diverse and technologically connected generation. They have grown up in a world where implicit bias and discrimination are frequently discussed, which may have caused them to become more aware of their own biases. On the other hand, the pervasiveness of social media and digital communication may contribute to new forms of implicit bias.


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How Generational Differences Shape Implicit Bias

Generational differences are important in shaping implicit biases, which influence our behaviors, decisions, and interactions in various sectors of society. These generational biases can significantly impact how we perceive and interact with the world, from the workplace to the educational system and politics to social relationships. In this section, we will look at how generational differences shape implicit bias in these key areas, demonstrating the far-reaching consequences of these unconscious attitudes and stereotypes.



Implicit bias differences between generations can have a significant impact on the workplace. Hiring, promotions, workplace culture, and collaboration can all suffer. For example, a Baby Boomer employer may subconsciously prefer a job candidate with a similar background or experience, which may inadvertently exclude younger or more diverse candidates. On the other hand, millennials are known for emphasizing diversity and inclusion, and they may implicitly favor candidates who demonstrate these values. Understanding these biases is critical for promoting fairness and creating a cooperative, inclusive workplace that values all generations.



Generational differences in implicit bias can manifest in various ways in education. Teachers’ implicit biases can influence their expectations and perceptions of students, affecting their academic performance and self-perceptions. For example, Generation X teachers may implicitly favor students with strong digital skills, whereas Baby Boomers may value traditional learning methods. Biases among students may result in stereotypes about other students from different generations, affecting interpersonal relationships and collaborative learning. Recognizing and addressing these biases can contribute to developing a more equitable and inclusive educational environment.



In implicit bias, generational differences can influence political ideologies and policy preferences. Baby Boomers, for example, may favor policies that reflect their formative experiences, such as the Cold War or the civil rights movement. Millennials and Generation Z, on the other hand, have grown up in a more globally connected world and may favor policies that promote international cooperation and social justice. These biases can influence political discourse, public policy, and election outcomes. Awareness of these biases can lead to more fruitful intergenerational dialogue and political cooperation.


Social Interactions and Relationships

Differences in implicit bias across generations impact social interactions and relationships. These biases can lead to misunderstandings and stereotypes, such as the “entitled Millennial” or “out-of-touch Baby Boomer,” limiting our understanding and appreciation of people from other generations. Recognizing and confronting our prejudices can lead to more meaningful and respectful intergenerational relationships.


Ways to Address Generational Differences in Implicit Bias

While generational differences shape implicit biases, it is critical to recognize that these biases are not insurmountable. Individuals and organizations can challenge and mitigate the impact of these biases by taking proactive steps. This section will look at strategies for addressing generational differences in implicit bias, such as education and awareness campaigns, inclusive policies, and promoting intergenerational dialogue. These strategies emphasize the importance of personal accountability and group effort in creating a more inclusive, understanding, and equitable society.


Education and Awareness Strategies

Education and awareness are among the most effective ways to address generational differences in implicit bias. This could include training programs or workshops designed to help people understand implicit bias, how it influences their perceptions and actions, and how it varies across generations. Activities such as role-playing, simulations, and group discussions can help people understand different generations’ perspectives.


Policies and Practices to Reduce Bias

Organizations can mitigate the impact of implicit bias by implementing policies and practices. Structured interviews, blind recruitment processes, and diversity and inclusion training are examples of workplace measures. In education, strategies could involve culturally responsive teaching practices, inclusivity training for staff, and curriculum revisions to reflect diverse perspectives.


Role of Leadership in Addressing and Mitigating Bias

Leaders can make a significant difference in addressing generational differences in implicit bias. Setting a tone of respect and inclusivity, promoting diversity in leadership positions, and modeling behaviors that challenge bias can all help. To mitigate bias, leaders can also ensure that policies and practices are implemented and followed.


Encouraging Inter-Generational Dialogue

Providing opportunities for intergenerational dialogue and interaction helps foster understanding and challenge biases. This could include mentorship programs, team-building activities, or community events that bring together people of different ages.


Self-Reflection and Personal Accountability

Finally, everyone has a part to play in addressing implicit bias. This entails being aware of one’s own biases, challenging stereotypical thinking, and making a concerted effort to interact with and understand people of different generations.


Final Thoughts

Understanding how generational differences shape implicit bias is critical to fostering a more inclusive and equitable society. We can improve cooperation and mutual respect among generations by acknowledging these differences, raising awareness, and implementing strategies to combat implicit bias. Future research and practice should continue investigating this complicated relationship and devise novel approaches to addressing implicit bias across generations.

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