The Reliable Bias Model of Implicit Cognition. 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2023


Ruth believes it is racist to think that all black men are dangerous. Nevertheless, when she encounters a black man at night, she is afraid and tries to avoid this man. Ruth does not explicitly endorse the claim that all black man are dangerous but there seems to be an implicit aspect of her mind that does. This aspect is called "implicit bias". Psychological studies suggest that someone can be implicitly racist or sexist. Implicit bias is widely discussed, both in academia and in public debates about racism and sexism. Recently, the standard psychological models of implicit bias have been criticized. The standard models mistakenly claim that if a response is automatic (i.e. unintentionally activated and quick), it is the result of a mental shortcut which avoids a person's goals and desires. This project proposes a different model: the Reliable Bias Model of Implicit Cognition. The model can explain why some mental states are automatic but nevertheless goal-directed. Ruth's avoidant behaviour is guided by the goal to stay safe. It is not because a response is automatic that one's goals are not taken into account. This model will not only be useful for psychological research. There are also philosophical questions related to implicit bias, such as: Are we to blame for our implicit biases? Are we able to and should we control them? What does implicit bias tell us about our ability to gain knowledge? The project will use the Reliable Bias Model to answer these questions.


Research team(s)