Philosophy Cafe | Implicit Bias and Productive Prejudice


The Philosophy Café is a regular opportunity for members of the Launceston community to meet and discuss, in some depth, a philosophical topic.

Start Date

4th Jun 2019 6:00pm

End Date

4th Jun 2019 7:30pm


Royal Oak Hotel, Brisbane Street, Launceston

RSVP / Contact Information

E.; T. 6234 3920

Implicit Bias and Protective Prejudice: A philosophical analysis

How to Think about "Implicit Bias" 

By Keith Payne, Laura Niemi, John M. Doris in the Scientific American on March 27, 2018 “When is the last time a stereotype popped into your mind? If you are like most people, the authors included, it happens all the time. That doesn’t make you a racist, sexist, or whatever-ist. It just means your brain is working properly, noticing patterns, and making generalizations. But the same thought processes that make people smart can also make them biased. This tendency for stereotype confirming thoughts to pass spontaneously through our minds is what psychologists call implicit bias. It sets people up to overgeneralize, sometimes leading to discrimination even when people feel they are being fair. Studies of implicit bias have recently drawn ire from both right and left. For the right, talk of implicit bias is just another instance of progressives seeing injustice under every bush. For the left, implicit bias diverts attention from more damaging instances of explicit bigotry. Debates have become heated, and leapt from scientific journals to the popular press.”

Do I Make You Uncomfortable?

Rick Chillot, published in Psychology Today on November 5, 2013 “The instincts that safeguard us from disease may also propel our worst social biases—not to mention violence around the globe. Gaining a true understanding of the forces that drive "protective prejudice" may be the only way to master our negative impulses.”

Science News - Prejudice Is Hard-wired Into The Human Brain, Says ASU Study

“Contrary to what most people believe, the tendency to be prejudiced is a form of common sense, hard-wired into the human brain through evolution as an adaptive response to protect our prehistoric ancestors from danger.”

Philosophical Questions

  • Assume all this is correct and we are subject to implicit bias and do practice protective prejudice?
  • What moral implications follow, if any, from the science?
  • What moral assumptions, if any, are apparent here?
  • What other philosophical implications follow, if any, from the science?
  • What other philosophical assumptions, if any, are apparent here?
  • Is bias avoidable?
  • If it is not avoidable then how can it be ‘bad’? (Kant: ‘ought implies can’)
  • If it is not avoidable then is it actually possible to be objective at all?
  • What is bias anyway?
  • What are we comparing bias to, in order to recognise it as bias?
  • What is objectivity anyway?

Arizona State University. (2005, May 25). Prejudice Is Hard-wired Into The Human Brain, Says ASU Study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 30, 2019 from