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There are no implicit attitudes

ERI 149
Wednesday 10 October 2018 (15:15-17:00)

Philosophy PGR seminar series 2018/19

  • Speaker: Fidaa Chehayeb
  • Title: There are no implicit attitudes

The Philosophy department's PGR seminar is an opportunity for postgraduate research students at Birmingham to present the material they are working on to the department's staff and other students. The seminar meets roughly on fortnightly Wednesdays from 15:15 to 17:00 in the ERI. All welcome!


Implicit bias is thought characteristic of individuals who explicitly endorse egalitarianism but discriminate unfavorably (or favorably) towards particular social groups. The most prevalent theories of implicit bias, which I call dualistic theories, explain the disparity between self-reports and subtle discriminatory behavior by appealing to an ontological distinction in their psychological underpinnings: our explicit egalitarian endorsements are representative of our beliefs, and our discriminatory behavior is due to some other thing in our mental taxonomy, be that our ‘aliefs’ (Gendler 2008), ‘patchy endorsements’ (Levy 2015), ‘structured beliefs’ (Mandelbaum 2015), or ‘unconscious imaginings’ (Sullivan-Bissett forthcoming). Although there is disagreement on the features of this newly posited ‘mental kind’ underlying our discriminatory behaviour (such as whether it is introspectively accessible, controllable, governed by epistemic norms), dualists agree that implicitly biased individuals who nevertheless hold an egalitarian belief, harbour an additional mental kind (often referred to as their ‘implicit attitude’) towards particular social groups. I raise two objections to dualism of this kind. The first is psychometric and concerned with errors in measurement procedures. The second is philosophical and focuses on the functional and structural heterogeneity of bias (Holroyd & Sweetman 2016). I end by gesturing to (at least the contours) of a more promising account whereby we understand the psychological basis of ‘implicit attitudes’ as involving various mental states and processes none of which are definitive of the implicit but which may be shared by explicit attitudes.

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