implicit bias and philosophy project

Unconscious biases against members of stigmatised groups have been studied by psychologists for decades, but only recently have philosophers explored this phenomenon. This project brings researchers from both fields together with policy professionals to work through the implications.

Implicit Bias & Philosophy International Research Project: Home

Over the last decade, a large psychological literature has developed on implicit biases. There is by now substantial empirical support for the claim that most people— even those who explicitly and sincerely avow egalitarian views—hold what have been described as implicit biases against such groups as blacks, women, gay people, and so on. (This is true even of members of the “target” group.) These biases are manifested in, for example, association tasks asking subjects to pair positive and negative adjectives with black or white faces: most are much speedier to match black faces with negative adjectives than with positive ones. They are also, it has been argued, manifested in behaviour: studies have shown that those with anti-black implicit biases are less friendly to black experimenters and more likely to classify an ambiguous object as a gun when it’s associated with a black person and as harmless when it’s associated with a white person.

Philosophers have, with a few notable exceptions, paid little attention to this literature. But there is much that should interest philosophers, and much philosophical work to be done. Doing this work properly requires collaboration between philosophers of mind and psychology, ethicists, political philosophers, and philosophers working on gender and race. It also requires input from philosophically-minded psychologists. In addition, some of the issues considered have significant consequences for equality policy and are of interest to equality professionals and campaigners. This project is the first to bring together all these groups in a sustained effort to work through these issues.