Aid and bias

Inquiry 47 (6):545 – 561 (2004)
Abstract
Over the last few decades, psychologists have amassed a great deal of evidence that our thinking is strongly influenced by a number of biases. This research appears to have important implications for moral methodology. It seems likely that these biases affect our thinking about moral issues, and a fuller awareness of them might help us to find ways to counteract their influence, and so to improve our moral thinking. And yet there is little or no reference to such biases in the philosophical literature on many pressing, substantive moral questions. In this paper, I make a start on repairing this omission in relation to one such question, the 'Aid Question', which concerns how much, if anything, we are morally required to give to aid agencies. I begin by sketching a number of biases that seem particularly likely to affect our thinking about that question. I then go on to review the psychological research on 'debiasing' - that is, on attempts to counteract the influence of such biases. And finally I discuss and illustrate certain strategies for counteracting the influence of the biases in question on our thinking about the Aid Question.
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