Author: Charley Bentley, Project Administrator – University of Portsmouth

The Changing Mindsets project is honoured to have Professor Patricia Devine serve as advisor. She is the Kenneth and Mamie Clark Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Devine’s research interests are closely aligned with the project’s goals, which has granted the team access to her invaluable expertise and guidance. Professor Devine’s research is specifically focused on how people manage the intrapersonal and interpersonal challenges associated with managing their own biases and addressing prejudice in society.

Beginning in the 1980s, Professor Devine’s research has demonstrated, in a series of revealing experiments, that people exhibit an implicit or unintentional racial bias (Devine, 1989). Professor Devine’s research concluded that racial stereotypes can influence individuals’ behaviour without conscious intent, even in those who don’t explicitly support racial stereotypes.

She argues that stereotypes and biases are habits of mind that interfere with people’s intentions to be egalitarian. In 2011 Professor Devine received the prestigious Scientific Impact Award from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, recognising the lasting impact of her research that fundamentally shaped the field of prejudice and stereotyping research.

Since establishing the pernicious impact of unconscious bias, Professor Devine has sought to end it. As Professor Devine has said “prejudice is a habit that can be broken” (Nordell, 2017). Over the years, she and her colleagues have developed and refined bias habit breaking interventions for both race and gender. The core idea of these interventions is to provide those exposed to the interventions with an awareness of unconscious or unintentional biases, as well as the tools needed to break the habit. In order to reduce unconscious bias, you need to not only be aware of it, but also be motivated to change and have a strategy for replacing it. During Professor Devine’s habit breaking workshops, for example, she and her colleagues go into depth on how people can act biased without realising, and give attendees the opportunity to discuss their own experiences of bias and how it has affected their lives. Lastly, the team offer attendees tools for breaking bias habits, encouraging people to identify situational reasons for a person’s behaviour that extend beyond stereotypes and to seek out individuals who are not part of your immediate group.

Photo by Julia Tulke

Professor Devine’s interventions have resulted in demonstrable success for reducing both race and gender biases (Devine et al., 2012; Carnes et al., 2015). For example, following a workshop with STEM faculty at the University of Wisconsin, hiring of women increased (Devine et al., 2017). Additionally, following her workshops, student participants took more note of race bias and were more likely to perceive it as wrong (Devine et al., 2012; Forscher et al., 2017).



Professor Devine has said of the project:

I was excited to meet with the exceptional team of researchers Professor Hoskins and Dr. Gangon have assembled in the Changing Mindsets project. The combination of the changing mindsets and the habit breaking approach to overcoming unintentional bias has the potential to create circumstances where students can develop their full potential unconstrained by stereotypes and bias.  The prospect of positively impact students’ experience and performance is extraordinary. Serving as an advisor on this important project is a true privilege. I both appreciated and enjoyed the strong collaborative atmosphere required to bring a project of this magnitude to fruition and I anticipate the program developed will have beneficial effects in reducing the impact of stereotype threat and enable students to achieve their full potential.

Read more about Professor Devine’s latest research in the May 2017 issue of The Atlantic




Carnes, M., Devine, P. G., Manwell, L. B., Byars-Winston, A., Fine, E., Ford, C. E., Forscher, P., Isaac, C., Kaatz, A., Magua, W., Palta, M., Sheridan, J. (2015). Effect of an intervention to break the gender bias habit for faculty at one institution: a cluster randomized, controlled trial. Academic medicine: journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges90(2), 221.

Devine, P. G. (1989). Stereotypes and prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology56(1), 5.

Devine, P. G., Forscher, P. S., Austin, A. J., & Cox, W. T. (2012). Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: A prejudice habit-breaking intervention. Journal of experimental social psychology48(6), 1267-1278.

Devine, P. G., Forscher, P. S., Cox, W. T. L., Kaatz, A., Sheridan, J., & Carnes, M. (2017, July 6). A gender bias habit-breaking intervention led to increased hiring of female faculty in STEMM departments. Retrieved from

Forscher, P. S., Mitamura, C., Dix, E. L., Cox, W. T., & Devine, P. G. (2017). Breaking the prejudice habit: Mechanisms, timecourse, and longevity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 72, 133-146.

Nordell, J (2017, May 7). Is This How Discrimination Ends? Retrieved from

Disclaimer:  the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog post belong solely to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the values of the University of Portsmouth or the extended Partnership.

Devine’s Bias Habit Breaking

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