What is unconscious bias as Prince Harry confesses to having and learning from it in new Netflix docuseries?

Prince Harry reflects on the importance of challenging it in the new Netflix series, but what is unconscious bias?

Prince Harry has opened up on the importance of challenging unconscious bias
(Image credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage)

Prince Harry confesses to having to work on his own unconscious bias in the new Netflix docuseries. He describes it as “education… awareness… a constant work in progress.” Unconscious bias is important to him, as he discusses being with Meghan Markle has allowed him to see the world in a new way, alluding to the fact that, even with the best of intentions, people from different backgrounds will help us live and see different experiences.

In the first volume of Harry and Meghan on Netflix, the six-episode docuseries which shows the Duke and Duchess of Sussex telling their own story, the topic of unconscious bias crops up repeatedly.

Most notably, the issue is discussed when recollecting Princess Michael of Kent’s controversial choice of accessory when meeting Meghan for the first time.

Princess Michael wore a Blackamoor brooch, a style that depicts African people as exoticized figures, widely seen as dated and racist in modern day.

Princess Michael of Kent's broach is brought up in Harry and Meghan on Netflix

(Image credit: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

In that segment of the docuseries, which takes part in episode three of the first volume, Harry says, “in this family, sometimes you’re part of the problem rather than part of the solution. And there is this huge level of unconscious bias.”

“The thing with unconscious bias is it’s actually no one’s fault. But once it’s pointed out or identified within yourself, you then need to make it right. It’s education. It’s awareness. And it’s a constant work in progress.”

Imperial College London explain that “unconscious (or implicit) bias is a term that describes the associations we hold, outside our conscious awareness and control. Unconscious bias affects everyone.”

Essentially, it’s the assumption that we will unconsciously judge or perceive someone a certain way, based on our own views of the world and how that person falls within our reading.

As per Imperial College’s explanation, “Unconscious bias is triggered by our brain automatically making quick judgments and assessments. They are influenced by our background, personal experiences, societal stereotypes, and cultural context. It is not just about gender, ethnicity or other visible diversity characteristics - height, body weight, names, and many other things can also trigger unconscious bias.”

“Unconscious bias can have a significant influence on our attitudes and behaviours, especially towards other people. It can influence key decisions in the workplace and can contribute to inequality, for example in selection and recruitment, appraisals, or promotion.”

Earlier in the series, Harry thanks his time with Meghan as helping him to understand new perspectives and challenge old implicit biases through his relationship. 

He said, "We don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are."

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

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