Stereotype Threat, Epistemic Injustice, and Rationality

In Michael Brownstein & Jennifer Saul (eds.), Implicit Bias and Philosophy. Oxford University Press. pp. 216-237 (2016)

Stacey Goguen
Northeastern Illinois University
Though stereotype threat is most well-known for its ability to hinder performance, it actually has a wide range of effects. For instance, it can also cause stress, anxiety, and doubt. These additional effects are as important and as central to the phenomenon as its effects on performance are. As a result, stereotype threat has more far-reaching implications than many philosophers have realized. In particular, the phenomenon has a number of unexplored “epistemic effects.” These are effects on our epistemic lives—i.e., the ways we engage with the world as actual and potential knowers. In this paper I flesh out the implications of a specific epistemic effect: self-doubt. Certain kinds of self-doubt can deeply affect our epistemic lives by exacerbating moments of epistemic injustice and by interacting with pernicious ideals of rationality. In both cases, self-doubt can lead to a person questioning their own humanity or full personhood. Since we have reasons to believe that stereotype threat can trigger this kind of self-doubt, then stereotype threat can affect various aspects of ourselves besides our ability to perform to our potential. It can also affect our very sense of self.
Keywords Stereotype Threat  Implicit Bias  Epistemic Injustice  Social Identity Threat  Rationality  Personhood
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