What is it about?

Implicit bias is a hot topic, but there is still disagreement about how to interpret studies of implicit bias. This paper explains how there are multiple ways to interpret these studies, how the quality of these studies varies, and what the stronger studies tell us about implicit bias: it's probably based on stereotypic thinking (i.e., associations), but implicit bias is not, as is commonly claimed, fully unconscious and involuntary.

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Why is it important?

Discussions of implicit bias are increasingly common. Debate moderators ask presidential candidates about implicit bias (Blake 2016), Fortune 500 companies close thousands of stores in order to teach their employees about implicit bias (Meyer 2018), and philosophers worry that implicit bias poses epistemic threats to philosophy (e.g., Saul 2013a, b; Peters 2018). Nonetheless, some are skeptical about the existence of implicit bias or the efficacy of corporate implicit bias training (e.g., McCoy 2018). So, academics try to remind the public about evidence of implicit bias (e.g., Payne et al. 2018) and successful debiasing (e.g., Carley 2018). This paper helps explain how implicit bias does (and does not) work.


We here a lot about implicit bias in the news and on social media. Alas, much of this discussion is based on misunderstanding. This paper can help people better understand the nature of implicit bias and research about implicit bias.

Nick Byrd
Florida State University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: What we can (and can’t) infer about implicit bias from debiasing experiments, Synthese, February 2019, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1007/s11229-019-02128-6.
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