Implicit Bias

It is vital for those working in the social work arena to reflect upon one’s own personal implicit biases. This is especially crucial due to the vast amount of diverse individuals whom social workers encounter on a daily basis. These influences or prejudices can affect the way social workers are able to help the clients they serve.  In discussions from diversity class, I have learned that thoughts become feelings then they lead to actions.  In the social work field,  it is important for biases or thoughts about certain groups or individuals not to become feelings or actions.  Being unaware of what one’s thoughts or feelings are about certain groups or individuals can be counterproductive in helping vulnerable individuals.  In reviewing the results of six implicit association test which included the following topics: race, weight, skin tone, age, sexuality, and gender-career; there were some areas that indicated that I had some bias, other areas that had slight biases, and a few that had no biases. This paper will introduce a summary and a reflection of my experience with the implicit association test results, develop a professional development plan, review articles from the above topics to decrease my implicit bias, and create a plan of action to implement in practice.  As a social worker, making myself conscious of my biases and developing a plan to address my prejudices will help me to check my preconceived thoughts before my interactions with vulnerable individuals.


The first implicit association test was regarding race and preferences between European Americans and African Americans. The results disclosed that there was little to no automatic preference between European American and African American.  I was slightly surprised by the results. I would normally assume that individuals would gravitate towards having a greater liking to individuals in their racial identity. Especially since everything going on in our world today and throughout history depicts Whites are is better than Blacks. On the other hand, the outcome of this test was not surprising to me due to the community I was raised in. For me, growing up in a predominantly white town, attending a predominantly white school, associating with peers whom were white allowed me to view myself being, an African American and my peers who were European American as both good.  I wholeheartedly believe that both European Americans and African Americans both have positive and negative qualities.  The culture of my family taught me to view myself as equal and just as good as those around me. Some of my very first best friends were white and those experiences with my friends have also helped to shape the results of the test. The results of this implicit bias test did not indicate that I favored European Americans or African Americans. However, if the findings would have suggested that I preferred one race over another that could hinder my ability to help vulnerable individuals in several ways. First, if I have biases or prejudices over one group of people it could affect my feelings about that group of people. Next, if I am not aware that those feelings I have about those people, then it will cause me to make general assumptions about all people in those groups.  If I do not allow vulnerable individuals to express their individual racial identity and how they see themselves, then I will not be able to make an accurate assessment of the individual. Lastly, I would not be able to help the vulnerable individuals locate appropriate resources to utilize.  


The next implicit association test that I completed was regarding weight. The outcome of this test indicated a moderate preference for fat people over thin people.  I was surprised by these results for several reasons. The first reason, I was amazed at the results was because I do not prefer to be fat. Next, my best friend that I have had a true friendship with throughout my life is extremely thin. I have other friends whom a Body Mass Index (BMI) would consider to be obese and I do not favor them over my friend who is thin.  On the other hand, I am not surprised that unconsciously this is a bias that I have to accept as one of my areas of development in order to check my bias. Most of the significant family members that I have had in my life would be viewed by the world as being fat.  So in turn, having an unconscious bias about fat people can be based on the environment that I grew up in. I would consider myself as a fat person.  I do think of myself as great person even though I am fat. This bias could affect my ability to effectively assist with vulnerable people for several reasons. First, people come in all shapes and sizes. The size of people should not determine how well I am able to support those in need.  Second, I could come into contact with someone needing help because of an eating disorder.  If I possess a bias about certain people because of their body image, it could hinder my ability to help them with their body image issues.

Skin Tone

Thirdly, the implicit association test that I took was regarding skin tone. The data indicated there was a slight automatic preference for light skinned people over dark skinned people. This suggested that I would prefer a light skinned person over a dark skinned person. I was surprised by the results because I believe that dark skinned individuals have beautiful melanin in their skin.  I was also shocked because all my life people have made such a huge emphasis about skin color. Since there has been such serious importance placed on colorism, I try to be overly sensitive and cautious about this subject.  I was not shocked that I had a slight automatic preference for light skinned over dark skinned people because of several reasons. For example, I would consider myself a light skinned, African American female. Next, individuals who are categorized in certain groups tend to associate with those who are most like them and who they can relate to.  Also, hearing stories from so many dark skinned peers who had a hard time growing up due to bullying, name calling, and hating their skin toned taught me to appreciate the skin that I have.  Additionally, another basis for this partiality could be from hearing stories and reading information about how slaves use to have to pass the “brown paper bag test.”  It appears that throughout history, colorism has been a stigma that caused many individuals positive and negative treatment as well as discrimination and advantages.  My implicit bias could be a bearing on my work with vulnerable individuals who have experience any type of bullying, name calling, prejudice, and or discrimination regarding their skin tone.  My bias may evoke an automatic assumption about an individual with darker skin. This assumption could be negative, and may hinder my ability to help this individual to create a positive plan in their particular areas of need in their life.


Another test that was conducted was regarding young people versus old people. The outcome of my test indicated a slight automatic preference for young people over old people. I was surprised by these results for numerous experiences throughout my life. For instance, when I was a young child my favorite thing to do was to visit my “Big Mama,” who is my great grandmother and also my grandmother.  Throughout my life, I have been one to cater to older adults in my family. I have experienced several family vacations with my grandmother and great aunt. I am a strong believer in elder individuals providing wisdom and knowledge to the younger generations. I am not surprised that I hold some bias due to most of my professional experience being with younger individuals as well as children. I would attribute my job in protecting the lives of children to be a basis of my implicit bias.  We have certain rules within our agency about an individual’s age that could prevent them from adopting children.  Individuals who have a fifty-five year age difference have to receive special approvals to adopt a child; this is due to concern that the individual may not have the ability to parent the child until the child reaches eighteen years old.  In my current occupation this bias could hinder the vulnerable children from being adopted by a grandparent or relative who is capable of ensuring their safety and well-being until they reach the age of majority.  My bias could hinder my capacity to assess vulnerable people and see older people as capable and worthy.


Additionally, I completed an implicit association test regarding sexuality.  The results concluded that there was no automatic preference between straight people and gay people.  I was not surprised that I do not have an automatic favorability between straight people and gay people. The reason I was not surprised was because of my interaction with gay individuals.  My best friend’s twin sister is gay.  Over the years I have influenced my best friend to accept her twin’s sexual identity.  My best friend and I have been able to ask questions of her twin so we are able to obtain more knowledge and understanding of the lifestyle and identity of gay individuals.  Over the years the more inquires we have been able to gain the more accepting and considerate we have been towards gay people.  In addition we have also been able to attend homosexual nightclubs and experience more interactions with members of the gay community.  Individuals with implicit biases towards gay or straight people will influence their work with vulnerable people.  They will not be able to accept an individual’s total identity, in particular their sexual orientation, which in turn will affect the ability of the social worker to provide them with appropriate tools and resources.

Gender Career

Lastly, I completed an implicit bias association test regarding gender careers. The results indicated that I have a slight automatic association for males with careers and females with family.  However, the roles of females have changed over time. I was not totally surprised by the outcome of this test.  Generally females have historically been more family orientated individuals and males have been more defined as bread winners.  Even though females normally also have a job and have the main responsibility in caring for the children, there are still some males who take on the “roles” of a female.  The foundations for my implicit bias appear to come from my nurturing.  I grew up in a home with a mother who took care of her children and also worked to support the family allowed me to view females as family oriented, independent, and hardworking.  However at my grandmother’s home she would always allow the males to sit down and watch television while she made their plates, meanwhile the females were in the kitchen helping with the meal and cleaning.  Our culture has shaped what female and male roles were by the chores children have been made to do growing up. For example, while the females in my home were made to clean the bathroom, kitchen, and living room; the males were responsible for taking out the garbage and work outside.  Having an implicit bias towards male and female roles could affect my ability to help individuals whose roles may seem unrealistic, uncommon, strange and or abnormal. A social worker will not be able to allow the vulnerable individual, who is the expert on their life, create the plan that would be beneficial for them and their family to solve their problem.

Professional Development plan

After reviewing the results of the implicit association test there are several areas that will require a professional development plan for my social work career. Those areas include weight, skin tone, age, and gender career.  In preparation for this professional development plan I will review academic journal articles in relation to the topics of weight, skin tone, age and gender career. The purpose of the analysis is so I can become aware of my predisposed thoughts regarding those topics listed above.  This examination and assessment will allow me to participate in specific activities to aide in my continuation of my awareness and realization of my implicit biases.  

The first implicit bias that will be addressed is regarding weight.  I will utilize an academic journal article regarding body image and eating disorders to become more aware of my prejudices, and to also educate myself on the issues.  First, I will make myself familiar with body image, self esteem, and eating disorder self help groups in the Oklahoma City Metro Area. Next, I will contact some of those groups and speak with the director or group facilitator to gain more knowledge about the resource. Then I would ask if I am able to attend one of the meetings. I would like to attend so I am able to hear some of the ways individuals with weight, body image, and self esteem issues are being assisted. Lastly, if there are any community events or walks to promote awareness and education about these areas of focus I would like to participate in the awareness.  

The next unconscious prejudice that is being addressed is regarding skin tone.  I will examine an article regarding the family structure and its impact on colorism.  In order to be alerted about the influence colorism or skin tone has on individuals, I will interview and engage with several individuals within different races who have different skin tones.  In speaking with these individuals, I will discuss how the shade or tone of their skin has impacted their lives both positively and negatively.  Next, I will process some of the harm that has been placed on individuals due to colorism.  Lastly, I will look up information on the Black Student Association and the Hispanic Student Association at the University of Oklahoma, and attend any cultural events that I am able to meet various individuals with various skin tones. Hopefully more contact and engagement will assist with maintaining me being mindful of those biases.

Another area of development for my biases is considering age.  To educate myself on the good and bad stereotypes regarding age, I will review a journal article about ageism.  After reviewing the article it will assist me in becoming thoughtful about my impressions and notions about older adults.  In order to keep myself alerted to my views about age, I plan speak to individuals within the family setting, individuals within the work setting, and individuals within the community setting to see how prejudices against the older population have affected their lives both positively and negatively.  Next, I will go to a retirement center or nursing home to socialize and engage with older adults.  Hopefully, this will help me to continuously check my biases before working with older adults.  

Lastly, there is a need for growth regarding my gender career perceptions.  The journal article I reviewed was regarding education and gender.  Reviewing this article will help to broaden my views on certain gender based careers and education.  Reflecting on careers that do not fit the category of normal “gender roles,” will help expand my conscious of what types of jobs are associated with men and women.  Having an open dialogue with individuals who do not fit traditional or “normal,” gender careers,”  and discussing how their careers have had negative and positive implications will help me retain my recognition of the biases that I posses.

Gerstein, F., & Pollack, F. (2016). Two Case Studies on Family Work with Eating Disorders and Body

Image Issues.  Clinical Social Work Journal, 44(1), 69-77. doi:10.1007/s10615-015-0566-x


According to Gerstein and Pollack (2016), there are more concealed family problems for individuals who are struggling with their weight, body image, and eating disorders.  There is also concern that individuals who are experts in body image and eating disorders have not took a further look at how the family structure and relationships play a vital role in these issues (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  The therapist who is working with the family members of those who are being treated for eating disorders can provide education and knowledge to the family, so the family is able to understand the following: the cause for eating disorders, how individuals with eating disorders can be cured, and how the family can aid or assist in helping the individual with an eating disorder (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).   

Utilization of structural therapy with the family included is vital to working with individuals with eating disorders (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  When working with minors, the main goal is to involve the family, more specifically the parents so they can have the power to implement rules (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  In addition, another type of way therapist work with family members to help individuals suffering from eating disorders is through enactment (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  According to Gerstein and Pollack (2016), enactment is the therapist assisting the family to engage in a way that is less critical, more productive, more conducive for development and positivity.  The primary purpose of this new way of engagement is introduced to the family, so the family is able to use this type of communication in a family like setting (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  There is also concern that negative thoughts about one’s body image can be passed from one generation to the next (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  This is usually seen from mothers and daughters and can be manifested in families with eating disorders who are not pleased with their bodies (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  This is referred to as systemic theory (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  Another type of therapy that is important when working with individuals with eating disorders is experiential family therapy (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  Experiential theory’s primary focus is on how necessary it is for individuals to talk about why they have certain feelings and emotions, and the reasons why they feel that way (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  The main purpose is for family members to actually listen and apprehend each other with interest  and empathy (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  In the article Gerstein and Pollack (2016), utilized two cases in which they applied the structural and experiential therapy approaches when working with families and individuals with eating disorders.

The structural theory enables therapist a basic way to help a family (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  While the systemic approach or theory focuses on how individuals can evoke patterns or feelings from their own childhood onto their children (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  In addition, the experiential approach has a focal point on the disclosure of the root of one’s feelings and emotions (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  The authors believe that all of the different approaches and theories give something great and important when working with these families (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  


Reviewing this article gave a better understanding of some of the underlying problems associated with individuals with eating disorders.  It helped to associate how some of the thoughts and beliefs that others have about certain things are passed down from generation to generation (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016). In turn, sometimes parents project those notions and beliefs onto their children. It provided me with more knowledge about how sometimes family dynamics can hinder an individual with an eating disorder or negative body image rather than help them.  In addition, the article provided information on how there are different approaches that should be taken when working with individuals with negative body images and eating disorders, and getting to the underlying cause is vital.  For instance, in the article during the first case, it was important for the therapist to address how there was a correlation or enmeshment between the mother and her mother’s relationship; which was passed on to the next generation (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  

In addition this article gave insight to how vital it is for family members to have and give a clear understanding and acknowledgement of the different feelings and emotions during family therapy (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  It appears important for the therapist to help the family members to describe their feelings in a manner that does not make other members withdraw or shut down.  For example, during one of the studies when the father was expressing his feelings he appeared to be angry (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016). However,  the therapist helped him to explain the root of his feelings were fear, but those feelings came out in anger (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  

Lastly, learning that individuals have deeper rooted issues surrounding body image has helped be to become more aware.  Become more aware and more conscious of the problems related to body image will help me to stop and think when working with individuals who have various body types ranging from fat to thin. In addition, I will stop and think about this newly acquired knowledge I have gained from the article.  This will lead me to not construct as many biases about these individuals due to the new education and research I have gained.

Practice Application

Upon reviewing this newly obtained information, I have created five practice applications. First, I believe that since I am educated on the subject, I understand the underlying cause, and I am aware of treatment techniques utilized when working with individuals with negative body images and eating disorders; I will be better able to provide resources for these individuals and families.  Second, since there is an underlying cause, it showed me the importance of each individual family member’s possible need for individual therapy in addition to family therapy.  Next, the research gave me insight to the different therapeutic approaches, and that not all therapist are skilled in working with individuals with negative body images or eating disorders (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  As a result, I need to become more familiar with the therapists throughout the state that have been trained in working with this population.  Additionally, this article provided me with knowledge regarding family dynamics and its impact on the entire family, and more specifically the individual with the body image problems (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  Since I know this, it will be very essential for me to understand the different family dynamics of each family I encounter.  Finally, the article stressed the importance of creating an environment in family therapy where the participants are safe and comfortable enough to express their emotions and feelings (Gerstein & Pollack, 20160. Therefore, the hope is that when the family leaves the therapist office they can take those same skills and apply them to their lives in a family setting (Gerstein & Pollack, 2016).  Furthermore, I will encourage families to utilize the same type of communication in their everyday lives to work through problems.

Landor, A. M., Brody, G. H., Bryant, C. M., Granberg, E. M., Simons, L. G., Simons, R. L., & …

Melby, J. N. (2013). Exploring the Impact of Skin Tone on Family Dynamics and Race

Related Outcomes. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(5), 817-826.doi:10.1037/a0033883


According to Landor et al. (2013), there are several correlations within the family structure regarding skin tone or colorism. First, there is a relation between parenting practices and parenting quality, the tone of the child’s skin, and gender (Landor et al., 2013).   The outcome of the study indicated that when males had dark skin, the value of the parenting they received was better than that of lights skinned males (Landor et al. 2013).  Landor et al. (2013), suggests that the consequences of being a dark skinned African American male have been studied, and indicate that they are underprivileged in areas such as salary, education, and employment.  It appears that parents are concerned and conscious of these disadvantages and they tend to endow better parenting standards to their dark skinned sons (Landor et al. 2013).  However for females, the higher value of parenting was received by light skinned daughters (Landor et al. 2013).  According to Landor et al. (2013), previous studies indicate that family members tend to treat those with lighter skin more superior than those with darker skin.  The article suggests that skin tone in African American women is normally instilled with the idea of beauty or attractiveness (Landor et al. 2013).   Since, the world we live in today places beauty on such a high pedestal, and also compares it to “white beauty,” then in African American families a female with more “whiter skin,” gains more socially than their darker skin counterparts (Landor et al. 2013).   The results indicated that African American parents either knowingly or unknowingly parent their children according to their skin tone (Landor et al. 2013).

Another important concern was the idea of parents teaching their children about distrust, prejudices, racial unfairness, and cultural training or socialization according to their skin tone and gender (Landor et al. 2013).   For instance, parents taught their dark skin sons about how they may be treated when engaging with individuals of other races, more times than they educated their light skinned sons.  Landor et al. (2013) indicated that dark skin males are more likely to be in jail, interrogated by the police, apprehended, and given more lengthy jail time. Hence, this is why parents believe it is vital to teach their dark skin sons to be aware of other racial and ethnic groups (Landor et al. 2013).   Another important aspect was the skin tone of the parent who was teaching the wariness to their sons and daughters (Landor et al. 2013).   When the primary parent had dark skin tone, then cautiousness was taught to their daughters; however when the primary caregiver had light skin tone then mistrust was taught to their sons (Landor et al. 2013).   

According to Landor et al. (2013), colorism is not about race or ethnicity, but it is focused on the complexion or shade of the skin tone.  Therefore, colorism is the division of opportunity and hindrance based on the tone of an individual’s skin (Landor et al. 2013).   Skin tone and colorism continues to be a prominent problem among African American families, especially when it comes to parenting methods (Landor et al. 2013).   While families may try to prepare their children for the truths about racism, sometimes families are unintentionally preserving the issue of colorism (Landor et al. 2013).   Landor et al. (2013) indicated that it is of great importance to recognize colorism among the family structure, since parents can be the key to reducing these preconceptions. Programs such as educating parents about the source of colorism or skin tone prejudices can be beneficial to discussing the correlation between skin tone and discrimination (Landor et al. 2013).   Emphasizing the unconscious damaging disadvantages of skin tone partiality among African Americans can change the customs of this issue within the family unit and in the community (Landor et al. 2013).   The outcome of such factors can be utilized by mental health providers, teachers, and other areas to allow a better understanding of the compound dynamics that are occurring within the African American family unit.


First, this article provided me with insight on the main source of colorism.  The article helped me to realize how easy it is for parents to unintentionally promoting colorism by their parenting qualities. Next, I gained knowledge that although African American parents may be intending to prepare their sons and daughters for racial discrimination, in fact they could be encouraging skin tone discrimination (Landor et al. 2013).   Forth, one of the most vital points made in this article was the idea that a parent would parent their child differently based on how light or dark their skin is and based on their gender (Landor et al. 2013).   This difference in parenting does not appear to me as a parent showing favoritism, but as a protective factor for the child. Lastly, I learned that dark skinned males are at a major disadvantage because of their skin tones in areas related to employment, income, and education (Landor et al. 2013).   

In reflection, learning how parents in the African American family may parent their children differently according to their skin tone, provided me with knowledge on where and how my implicit bias may have originated.  For an example, being from an African American family, it is not uncommon for topics of skin tone to arise in various conversations and interactions.  In my opinion, the first step in reducing our biases is becoming aware of our biases, and then educating ourselves on the issue. Since I am educated on the topic, when I come into contact with individuals with a darker skin tone, I will stop and think about the many prejudices they may have dealt with.   I will also think about how some of these adults and children may have been treated unfairly or differently in a family like setting or community setting based on something they have never had any control over. Since biases and prejudices lead to discrimination, and I have learned how disadvantaged dark skinned males are due to their skin tone that helps to reduce my bias because I am aware of the effects of skin tone. Due to this new research and knowledge, I realize that there are already so many odds stacked against dark skinned individuals both personally and socially. This information is essential in the reduction of my implicit biases as well.  

Practice Application

Upon gaining knowledge of the information gained from this article, I will discuss five practice applications.  First, asking myself if I want to be the problem or help be the solution to the problem will help reduce my implicit bias. To be the solution to the problem starts with me. Since I am aware that the source of most colorism is initiated within the family structure, then starting with my family, when topics of skin tone comes up I will educate my family on the implications of colorism (Landor et al. 2013).   In an informal way I will ask my family if comments about certain skin tones have had a negative impact on them personally or someone they know.  I will also share personal comments made to me about skin tone that positively and negatively impacted me.  

Next, in my current position at the Oklahoma Department of Human Service, I will implement new discussions in areas such as the family function assessment or child interviews to determine the effects of colorism within African American and Hispanic families. Some of the questions may include feelings about self-esteem, appearance, discrimination, the origination of thoughts about self or others, and how their thoughts may affect others or their children. I feel that if I help others become aware and educated on the issue of skin tone; it may have a lasting impact on their families and themselves. Having this discussion will help these clients become aware. Since I work with abused and neglected children, I believe that some of the children could be seen as a target based on their skin tone. This is why I believe that applying this practice to my current position could assist with finding out the underlying cause of abuse and neglect in some cases.  

Furthermore, I believe it is vital for our teachers and educators to be aware and educated about the issues of colorism (Landor et al. 2013).   Teachers may be unconsciously treating children a certain way due to their skin tone.  When educators receive yearly training, it is essential for diversity to be included in those training. During those diversity trainings it is important for teachers to be educated on the topic of colorism and its effects on different ethnic and racial groups. In order to bring this issue to the attention of educators it would have to start at a principal or school board level.  I personally know a principal in the Oklahoma City Public School District who has discussed creating training on the child welfare system. I believe that training on diversity and colorism is just as essential to training on the child welfare system. Providing training would be educational and insightful for educators. Along with the training the educators should be provided with an educational handout regarding diversity and colorism. Therefore, I will speak with the principal and discuss diversity and colorism training for his facility.  I believe the more education this topic receives the more likely that it will reduce implicit biases on skin tone for others as well as me.

Lastly, it is important for mental health providers and therapist to be aware of skin tone and colorism (Landor et al. 2013).   Since I work with various providers and therapist, it is important for me to talk with them about skin tone and colorism within minorities (Landor et al. 2013).   According to Landor et al. (2013), this is vital for the therapist to understand the different dynamics of working with families of color.  I believe this discussion is vital especially when working with adolescents and adults. Having this type of discussion may assist the therapists understand some of the parenting practices and reasons why the way certain individuals may think. First, I would start with the agencies or therapists who serve a large population of minorities. Next, I would identify the director or CEO of the agency to see what type of knowledge or education they have on colorism.  In addition, if there was no knowledge or education, I would ask if it was possible to conduct a training or education on colorism. If there was knowledge or education I would ask what type of information they have and if I could be provided with that information. Lastly, I would talk to the CEO about the importance of the therapist knowing about the dynamics of colorism within families and its effects on both genders. Furthermore, I would encourage topics regarding skin tone, self-esteem, appearance, and discrimination to be discussed with clients when it is appropriate.

Chonody, J. M. (2016). Positive and Negative Ageism. Affilia: Journal of Women & Social Work,

31(2), 207-218. doi:10.1177/0886109915595839


According to Chonody (2016), older individuals are labeled as inflexible, physically and mentally slow, or old-fashioned, and these views are the foundation of ageism or bias against older individuals. The article suggests that ageism and sexism are correlated, in that they both reemphasize the power and privilege that males have (Chonody, 2016).  Ageism and sexism are both experienced by women and are thought to be intersections that women face with oppression (Chonody, 2016).  This is the idea of a double oppression where socially women will drop in their social significance at a faster rate than men (Chonody, 2016).  This study explored the role or importance of sexist principles in describing age-based prejudices (Chonody, 2016).  While some of the positive labels of age could appear to be compassionate, they are authoritarian, and they actually promote actions associated with ageist (Chonody, 2016). For an example, speaking to an older individual in a childlike way was determined to make older individuals question their capacity to do something and also negatively affected their confidence (Chonody, 2016).  When an individual spends more time with older adults it has a positive effect on ageism (Chonody, 2016).  Some of the negative thoughts individuals have on ageism includes philosophies about moodiness, no sex drive, and mental deterioration (Chonody, 2016).

According to Chonody (2016), the opinions of others have an impact on their actions. Sometimes people avoid things when they are aging due to apprehension about death, which could also play a role in ageism (Chonody, 2016).  Having fear of death can affect self-worth; however cultural views and faith are protecting influences that can add significance to life (Chonody, 2016).    Gender has a vital role in indicating that men have more negative thoughts about aging and women have more positive thoughts (Chonody, 2016).  If one part of the bias thoughts or beliefs is addressed such as sexism, the other prejudice thoughts towards ageism will not eliminate this type of thinking (Chonody, 2016).  However, addressing the patriarchal views and how it impacts bias thinking towards ageism will address the issue (Chonody, 2016).  

Finally, research has determined that if individuals have more engagement with aging individuals, take on their perspective, and form empathy it will assist in reducing prejudice thoughts and beliefs. In this article Chonody (2016), also suggest that Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) with different sets of memberships can provide an even comprehensive perspective taking.  When participating in IGD, individuals from different group memberships are arranged in various locations of privileges and repressions so all individuals see those hierarchies, and can be useful to process challenging feelings which creates a helpful engagement experience  (Chonody, 2016). Social workers need to ensure that they understand the intersections when dealing with ageism  (Chonody, 2016).


This article provided me with knowledge and understanding of how ageism stems from various types of thinking  (Chonody, 2016).   It also helped me to understand how older women are oppressed more than older men  (Chonody, 2016).  For an example, this is true because older women have a double intersection, such as their gender and age  (Chonody, 2016).  The idea that when women age they will not have as much worth compared to men was new knowledge that I acquired.  Receiving awareness on  the positive or good things or beliefs that individuals tend to say such as nice, pretty, or wise about older individuals can also have a damaging effect on older individuals; it is beneficial in reducing my bias. For instance, if I know that saying or thinking those things makes older adults question their ability to do something and lowers their self-worth, it helps me to try to think differently.  Next, now that I’ve learned that culture and faith have a positive effect on reducing fear of dying helps me to want to talk more about those types of subjects when interacting with older adults  (Chonody, 2016).  I believe that with engaging in different types of conversations with older adults will change how I view them and help to reduce my implicit bias.

Practice Application

Finally after reading this article, I will apply five practice applications from the education I have received from the article.  This article taught me that some of the things that we view as “natural,” when engaging with older adults, can be offensive.  Now I will place high importance on discussing things that are important to older adults, and allow them to lead the conversation.  Next, now that I know that saying things like, “your so cute, sweet, or wise,” to adults are invasive, I will use terms that do not make them feel incompetent or child-like. For example, if I want to give an older adult a compliment I will say things like “you look so beautiful, or you are a very educated.”  Third, the article taught me that group conversations or dialogue are important to allow different people of high status and different oppressions to take on different viewpoints. I would advocate for retirement centers to have a “Social Day,” every month to invite families, friends, support systems, doctors, and anyone of significance in the older adult’s life.  This would allow for individuals from various walks of life to get together and mingle. The best stipulation would be that after the first fifteen minutes individuals could not be sitting or engaging with someone whom they knew. Also, I would suggest that individuals or social workers in the gerontology field are well-informed of the idea of intersectionality and the effect on ageism. The first place I would start would be to educate my friend who works in gerontology know about the research regarding intersectionality and where to obtain this research. Finally, I will make it a point to spend more time with aging individuals in my family. While spending time, I will talk to my family and friends about some of the positives and negatives that they have experienced in aging. I will also inquire as to what solutions they believe would be beneficial. This will help me to understand them, and also help to reduce my implicit bias towards older adults.

Chrisler, J. C., Barney, A., & Palatino, B. (2016). Ageism can be Hazardous to Women’s Health:

Ageism, Sexism, and Stereotypes of Older Women in the Healthcare System. Journal of

Social Issues, 72(1), 86-104. doi:10.1111/josi.12157


According to Chrisler, Barney, and Palatino (2016), women encounter the healthcare system more than men.  There are more women in the elder population and as women age, this percentage rises. Biases of older adults have internal and external effects and contribute to faintness and dependency (Chrisler, Barney, & Palatino, 2016).  These beliefs can also impede on older adults getting health care, treatment, and diagnosis within the healthcare system (Chrisler et al., 2016).  Public policy debates and politicians have utilized negative slurs to describe the amount of elder adults in our society today (Chrisler et al., 2016).  There is also research that indicates that ageism is younger individuals being detached from older individuals to escape physical and social engagement between the two populations (Chrisler et al., 2016).  Public policy pushes for more distance or separation through the development of more senior citizen centers and senior living facilities (Chrisler et al., 2016).  

Women consistently live by a double standard to men, especially when it comes to age and physical appearance (Chrisler et al., 2016).  For instance, women who have gray hair and wrinkles are viewed as old, when men are seen in a positive light for those same features (Chrisler et al., 2016).  Women who are actresses also have their careers cut shorter than men due to appearance (Chrisler et al., 2016).  Frequent bias and prejudice against older adults is a form of minority stress (Chrisler et al., 2016).  However, older individuals are rarely seen as a person of minority status (Chrisler et al., 2016).  The stress experienced by older individuals has a huge impact on their physical and mental health (Chrisler et al., 2016).  Ageism is consistently an intersection of sexism, this makes easy for individuals to view older women as unskilled more than older men (Chrisler et al., 2016).  When older adults internalize these biases and opinions, they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, which can cause learned powerlessness (Chrisler et al., 2016).  For example, older individuals can believe that they are not able to exercise or remember to take their medication and believe it is contributed to being old (Chrisler et al., 2016).  

Finally, sever illnesses are more prevalent among older adults than younger adults (Chrisler et al., 2016).  Doctors and medical students have stereotypes for older individuals, and they treat older individuals illnesses different based on these thoughts or opinions of older adults (Chrisler et al., 2016).  For example, older adults are described as trying, challenging, demanding, likeable, and sincere, and they are viewed as useless, and because of this doctors admire older individuals better than their older patients (Chrisler et al., 2016).  On the other hand, the nurses that work with older individuals are more positive towards elders than doctors (Chrisler et al., 2016).  According to Chrisler et al. (2016), this could be true do to the fact that nurses are not trying to treat the problem, their goal is to care for the problem. Older patients do not receive the same type of treatment as younger adults (Chrisler et al., 2016).  For an example, older adults are not as likely to be put on the list for transplants, or be tested on trials for new medicine (Chrisler et al., 2016).  Finally, receiving health care services and the value of those services are consistently impacted by the biases of policy creators (Chrisler et al., 2016).


This article provided me with a more education on older women and the biases in the healthcare system.  I was blind to the idea that doctors treat patient differently due to their thoughts about their age.  However, now it makes sense as to why older individuals are less inclined to seek medical attention when they need it.  After reviewing the article, it appears that the stereotypes that doctors possess about older patients affect their health and their treatment of illnesses adversely.  My views were also broadened about the idea of creating separate centers and living areas for the aging to divide them from young people.  Since the older generation seems to be vulnerable it does not make sense to seclude them.   I was also educated on the fact that older individuals are not placed on waiting lists for special transplants due to their age. Lastly, I was educated on the idea regarding older adults internalizing the views of others and taking them on in the self-fulfilling prophecy.  

In addition, bringing knowledge to the forefront regarding health care, segregation of living centers, stereotypes, and waiting list helped me to be educated and understand the treatment of older adults more.  This can contribute to me changing my views about why older adults do not want to go to medical providers when they are sick. Which helps me to not just think that an older individual is just being challenging, and they could not want to go due to the prejudice and treatment they are receiving at the appointments.  Realizing how stereotypes that individuals would not think affects older adults affect their self-esteem, is beneficial and also helps to reduce my views or biases.  For an example, the appearance of an older woman compared to a man should not be seen as a double standard. All these examples helped me to reduce my implicit bias towards older adults and their behaviors.

Practice Application

Now that I am educated on the impact on stereotypes, health care system, double standard, and segregation on elder adults I will discuss five practice applications. I am now educated on the idea that older adults are treated differently by physicians. In my personal life I will practice going to at least 2 doctor’s appointments with an older adult.  I think this will help if I am an advocate and a voice in case the older adult does not feel that he or she has a voice.  While attending the appointment I think it will be important to engage in a dialogue with the treating physician about the population of people served, and discuss this newly acquired knowledge and research.  Next, I think this will be great information to share with fellow hospital social workers. They are the main agents to spread this information in their everyday practice with health care providers.   Hospital social workers should be given research and knowledge about the treatment of elder adults so they are able to recognize when it occurs. This knowledge can be shared through research and resources.  

Also since, young people and older adults are segregated I believe it would be vital to have adolescence and young adults take trips to senior living communities.  This would be vital in having older and younger adults engage in positive social interactions.  More positive interactions can lead to the reduction of stereotypes by young people.  This engagement could be a requirement through the education system in certain classes. I believe it will be easiest to implement in an Introduction to Sociology undergraduate level course.  Talking to previous Sociology professors would be a starting point for my advocacy of this interaction and engagement. Lastly, therapist who work with older adults need to teach older adults independence so they do not learn helplessness due to stereotypes placed on them.  This could be implemented by speaking with therapist who target older adults.  This information could be implemented by educating the therapist on the research and further education by the therapist. This could be implemented by researching therapist in the area who specialize in working with older adults, and could be found using colleagues, networking, or the internet.  I believe that empowering older adults and educating those in contact with them can help reduce the oppression on older adults.

Rudman, L. A., & Phelan, J. E. (2010). The Effect of Priming Gender Roles on Women’s Implicit

Gender Beliefs and Career Aspirations. Social Psychology (18649335), 41(3), 192-202. doi:10.1027/1864-9335/a000027


According to Rudman and Phelan (2010), more women have employment, attend college, and have advanced degrees.  However, women do not earn as much in men and they have more household responsibilities (Rudman & Phelan, 2010). Gender beliefs derive from the traditional responsibilities that have been consistent throughout history for men and women (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).  Individuals are now expecting women to take on more male dominated roles as well as primary caregivers, however the roles and preconceptions about men are not assumed to change (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).  It appears that preconceptions about gender roles are a part of principles from culture, and they are taught at a young age, however individuals can accept them or discard them (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).   Since they are instilled at a young age people form what is called implicit gender stereotypes (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).  As a result views of other individuals are unconsciously thought without awareness (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).  Individuals also form implicit self-concept, which is the automatic relationship among self and concepts (Rudman & Phelan, 2010). So even when individuals are being honest, they state what they think they are certain of (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).  

In addition, preparing gender roles impacted women’s unspoken gender labels, self-concept, and career goals (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).  Being exposed to individuals in traditional gender roles enlarged women’s power warmth, and decreased their curiosity in male dominated occupations. For example, changing implied gender roles had a negative outcome and influenced gender equality (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).  However, nontraditional individuals were not impacted on gender stereotypes (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).  Therefore, assumptions cannot be made that if nonconforming women are taught about successful women will not always inspire women (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).  There appears to be a negative effect on both groups of women being exposed to nontraditional versus traditional roles (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).  Once women start to take more male driven careers, then women will progress upwardly (Rudman & Phelan, 2010).    


After reviewing the article I learned that just because traditional women may be taught about other gender roles or an occupation that does not confirm them into wanting to pursue them.  On the other hand, I learned that women have to want to engage in non-traditional roles. This was viewed as impactful; because it shows that a woman’s desires to do something differently comes from within.  Therefore this taught me that gender careers are not just sought after because of what individuals may have seen, but instead those individuals had interest in those careers. This article also gave insight to how gender roles have a lasting impact on individuals because they are learned at such young age. Thinking about general roles are often ideas that are unintentionally thought about since they are ingrained in individuals so early based on culture.  I am now aware that the biggest impact is on what individuals are taught at an early age, which can help reduce implicit bias towards gender careers.  Knowing that despite what one was taught, it is still choices that each individual and or family makes about their different roles in their family. As a social worker I am not going to advise families on what may work for me or someone else for their family roles. Individuals are the experts of themselves and their families, and therefore whatever gender roles they may have, should be acceptable to me as the social worker.

Practical Application

As a result of this newly obtained information and education, I will discuss five practice applications. To start, this article taught me to advocate for what type of career or roles each individual wants to hold. I would like to further research the how career or job placement tests effect gender careers and gender roles. Obtaining this information would educate me about how individuals come to know what type of gender specific or gender different career they would desire. I would explore the topic of both gender specific and gender different career placements to decrease my bias. Third, this article displayed that the idea of showing different gender roles and careers does not make someone change their thoughts or feelings. As a result, it would not be beneficial for me to guide a client into different gender roles or careers by showing them. A different approach could be to explore likes, dislikes, interest, hobbies, and talents. Next, this article taught me to encourage young mothers to be mindful of their values and beliefs about gender roles that are placed on their children at a young age. Also this would help me to educate parents on how their beliefs and values, mold and shape their children into careers, roles, choices, and etc. This could be done in a group or individual parenting setting. Lastly, I would strive to not tell children who I come into contact with my thoughts or beliefs on gender roles, and allow them to come up with their own. I am able to implement these both personally and professionally.  I can encourage children at work and in my family, to think or do what they want to do when they have questions about gender specific roles, activities, toys, and or behaviors. This will help to reduce my overall gender career bias.