Hidden figures: epistemic costs and benefits of detecting (invisible) diversity in science

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Demographic diversity might often be present in a group without group members noticing it. What are the epistemic effects if they do? Several philosophers and social scientists have recently argued that when individuals detect demographic diversity in their group, this can result in epistemic benefits even if that diversity doesn’t involve cognitive differences. Here I critically discuss research advocating this proposal, introduce a distinction between two types of detection of demographic diversity, and apply this distinction to the theorizing on diversity in science. Focusing on ‘invisible’ diversity, I argue that in one common kind of group in science, if group members have full insight into their group’s diversity, this is likely to create epistemic costs. These costs can be avoided and epistemic benefits gained if group members only partly detect their group’s diversity. There is thus an epistemic reason for context-dependent limitations on scientists’ insight into the diversity of their group.
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First archival date: 2021-01-22
Latest version: 3 (2021-03-04)
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