Attitude, Inference, Association: On the Propositional Structure of Implicit Bias

Noûs 50 (3):629-658 (2016)
Abstract
The overwhelming majority of those who theorize about implicit biases posit that these biases are caused by some sort of association. However, what exactly this claim amounts to is rarely specified. In this paper, I distinguish between different understandings of association, and I argue that the crucial senses of association for elucidating implicit bias are the cognitive structure and mental process senses. A hypothesis is subsequently derived: if associations really underpin implicit biases, then implicit biases should be modulated by counterconditioning or extinction but should not be modulated by rational argumentation or logical interventions. This hypothesis is false; implicit biases are not predicated on any associative structures or associative processes but instead arise because of unconscious propositionally structured beliefs. I conclude by discussing how the case study of implicit bias illuminates problems with popular dual-process models of cognitive architecture.
Keywords Implicit Bias  Associationism  Cognitive Structure  Belief  Implicit Attitudes  Reasoning  Inference  Unconscious Thought  Racism
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DOI 10.1111/nous.12089
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