The Structure of Bias

Mind 129 (516):1193-1236 (2020)

Abstract

What is a bias? Standard philosophical views of both implicit and explicit bias focus this question on the representations one harbours, for example, stereotypes or implicit attitudes, rather than the ways in which those representations are manipulated. I call this approach representationalism. In this paper, I argue that representationalism taken as a general theory of psychological social bias is a mistake, because it conceptualizes bias in ways that do not fully capture the phenomenon. Crucially, this view fails to capture a heretofore neglected possibility of bias, one that influences an individual’s beliefs about or actions toward others, but is, nevertheless, nowhere represented in that individual’s cognitive repertoire. In place of representationalism, I develop a functional account of psychological social bias which characterizes it as a mental entity that takes propositional mental states as inputs and returns propositional mental states as outputs in a way that instantiates social-kind inductions. This functional characterization leaves open which mental states and processes bridge the gap between the inputs and outputs, ultimately highlighting the diversity of candidates that can serve this role.

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Gabbrielle M. Johnson
Claremont McKenna College

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Citations of this work

Oppressive Things.Shen-yi Liao & Bryce Huebner - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (1):92-113.
Semantics of Pictorial Space.Gabriel Greenberg - 2021 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1 (4):847-887.

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