Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Shane R. Thye


Implicit biases are unconscious associations between a group and a given attribute. Thus, individuals may have no conscious prejudice and even openly disclaim bigotry, but nonetheless harbor subconscious biases that subtly shape their behaviors across many domains including hiring and promotion decisions in the workplace. Although legal scholars agree that the implementation of antidiscrimination laws have succeeded in decreasing consciously bigoted attitudes and outright displays of prejudice and discrimination, the extent to which these laws address the impact of implicit biases has yet to be investigated. This dissertation utilizes research from structural social psychology and prospect theory to offer a theoretical explanation as to the origins of implicit biases as well as the best possible legal solutions to limit their impacts. Specifically, it is hypothesized that the frame or wording of antidiscrimination laws affects how well they overcome implicit biases in hiring decisions. Two major findings result from experimental testing. First, implicit biases in hiring decisions are largely the result of implicit biases based on salient social identities (i.e., in-group/out-group boundaries). Second, overcoming these biases can be achieved through the use of antidiscrimination laws framed in terms that emphasize the promotion equality. The implications of the present research for legal and sociological scholars as well as future directions of inquiry are also discussed.


© 2010, Lisa Michelle Dilks