Implicit Bias & Philosophy International Research 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

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.

In 2011-2013 the Leverhulme foundation enabled this project to host a series of workshops and a conference, bringing together philosophers, psychologists and others to work through these issues together for the first time. Two volumes of edited papers from these conferences are now forthcoming with Oxford University Press:

  • Michael Brownstein and Jennifer Saul, eds. Implicit Bias and Philosophy Volume I: Metaphysics and Epistemology, Oxford University Press.
  • Michael Brownstein and Jennifer Saul, eds. Implicit Bias and Philosophy Volume II: Moral Responsibility, Structural Injustice, and Ethics, Oxford University Press

The Implicit Bias & Philosophy International Research Network has been made possible by a generous grant from the Leverhulme Trust, the University of Sheffield and persp.