Can we become aware of our implicit biases?

  • Sophie Stammers (Speaker)

Activity: Academic and Industrial eventsGuest lecture or Invited talk


Abstract: A growing body of research reveals the prevalence of implicit bias, where individuals systematically disfavour people from particular social groups, even though they do not seem to intend to exhibit such disfavouring treatment. This form of discrimination is pervasive and has been shown to manifest in a great variety of human interaction (for example, see McConnell & Leibold, 2001; Ulhmann & Cohen, 2005; Green, et al., 2007; Rooth, 2007; Jost et al. 2009). There is a distinctly philosophical project in precisely how to characterize implicit bias (pursuing answers to such questions as “In virtue of what does the ‘implicit’ differ from the ‘explicit’?” and “To what extent can we be aware of, and exert control over, these cognitions?”) which has implications for how we understand and mitigate bias in everyday action. Speaking to this project, a number of philosophers suggest that what makes implicit biases implicit, and distinguishes them from explicitcognitions, is that the subject could not become aware of their implicit biases (Saul, 2013; Levy, 2014).In this paper, I offer an account of awareness of implicit bias, and argue that individuals can become aware of how implicit bias manifests in their actions in the same way that they can come to recognise the development of personal-level preferences (preferences constituted by explicit beliefs) which scope over a general class of objects. As such, at least some implicit biases are what I call ‘observable class preferences’. I argue that, with reflection, we are able to become aware of at least some of our implicit biases in so far as we may reflect on our preferences and observe them.
Period10 Nov 2016
Event titleEighth Meeting of the Spanish Society for Analytic Philosophy (SEFA - 2016)
Event typeConference
LocationOviedo, SpainShow on map