‘I love women’: an explicit explanation of implicit bias test results

Synthese (5-6):13861-13882 (2021)
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Recent years have seen a surge of interest in implicit bias. Driving this concern is the thesis, apparently established by tests such as the IAT, that people who hold egalitarian explicit attitudes and beliefs, are often influenced by implicit mental processes that operate independently from, and are largely insensitive to, their explicit attitudes. We argue that implicit bias testing in social and empirical psychology does not, and without a fundamental shift in focus could not, establish this startling thesis. We suggest that implicit bias research has been conducted in light of inadequate theories of racism and sexism. As a result, such testing has not sufficiently controlled for subjects’ prejudiced explicit beliefs and emotions, and has not ruled out the possibility that explicit prejudice best explains test subjects’ discriminatory associations and behavior.

Author Profiles

Samuel Reis-Dennis
Rice University
Vida Yao
University of California, Los Angeles


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