Unbiased awarding of art prizes? It's hard to judge

Ema Sullivan-Bissett*, Michael Rush

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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We have higher-order evidence that aesthetic judgements in the context of awarding art prizes may be affected by implicit bias, to the detriment of artists from marginalized groups. Epistemologists have suggested how to respond to higher-order evidence by appeal to bracketing or suspending judgement. We explain why these approaches do not help in this context. We turn to three ways of addressing the operation of implicit bias: (i) anonymization, (ii) the production of objective criteria, (iii) direct implicit bias mitigation techniques. We show that, in the art prize case, strategy (i) is sometimes counterproductive and any benefits are partial, and strategy (ii) is difficult or impossible to implement. This means that the need for (iii) direct implicit bias mitigation techniques is more pressing here than elsewhere. The art prize context is one where mitigation of a particular kind is all we are left with. However, domain-specific problems arise for this strategy too, which call for further empirical work on the operation of implicit bias in the artworld. We conclude that the problem of implicit bias as it arises in the specific context of awarding prizes in the artworld is especially challenging, and given the unavailability of alternative mitigations in this context, the need for direct bias mitigation is even more pressing here than in society in general.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberayac028
JournalBritish Journal of Aesthetics
Early online date8 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Mar 2023


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