Biases in Niche Construction

Philosophical Psychology:1-31 (2023)
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Abstract

Niche construction theory highlights the active role of organisms in modifying their environment. A subset of these modifications is the developmental niche, which concerns ecological, epistemic, social and symbolic legacies inherited by organisms as resources that scaffold their developmental processes. Since in this theory development is a situated process that takes place in a culturally structured environment, we may reasonably ask if implicit cultural biases may, in some cases, be responsible for maladaptive developmental niches. In this paper we wish to argue for an affirmative answer. In order to do so, we first propose to conceptualize implicit bias as embodied perceptual habits, and then proceed to show that these habits are at least partially responsible for maladaptive developmental niches of children with Down syndrome and autism. With this framework we thus hope to bring together two fields of research that haven’t been explicitly connected: implicit bias and niche construction theory. Linking these two theories may bring benefits both to implicit bias researchers, who can extend this concept to characterize other sets of processes as biased, as well as to niche construction theorists, who will have a useful theoretical tool to diagnose maladaptive features of niches brought about by sociocultural biases.

Author Profiles

Felipe Nogueira de Carvalho
Federal University of Lavras
Joel Krueger
University of Exeter

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