Toward A Value Theory Of Implicit Bias

There’s been some books that have come out over the past few years on implicit bias. I’ve really wanted to read them but haven’t. If anything I write here is in them, I’d be surprised, but happy. It means I’ve struck upon a good idea.

As I was lying in bed, like Descartes, tonight, I had a thought: What if the things I’ve been writing about recently are related to implicit bias? I’ve always known that everyone has biases, but implicit bias is exceptionally bad. You act as if other people have less value. This has been documented against people of color and women, especially.

What if, I thought, The Great Chain of Being is related to all of this.

We live in a hierarchical society. Its sad but true. Like I’ve mentioned before, I lived my life as if certain people–not necessarily people of color or women, per se–had less value than others. I now aim to live differently.

I want to, then, put forward the beginnings of what I call The Value Theory of Implicit Bias. (For more on the background thinking on this, see the rest of my recent blog posts.) On this theory, we know, explicitly, that all humans are equally valuable. But we act as if some are more valuable than others because of how our (capitalist) society is structured. This would explain why, for example, people say they believe in equality but act as if they don’t. They are attributing, in the back corners of their mind, a false value to people, thinking some to be worth less than others.

On this view, we are incorrect in the recesses of our mind and in our actions. This would be why people show to be having bias on the Implicit Association Test and why a people act in biased ways.

It would also explain why women and people of color also seem to score to be having bias on these tests and why a woman can be sexist. These are people who know the structure of our society. We–all of us–are born into it and raised in it.

On this view, then, we are incorrectly assigning values in our implicit thoughts and in our deeds. That’s why it’s called The Value Theory of Implicit Bias.

This is a new thought to me: that bias is really an assignment of value. And, moreover, it carries out in our actions.

I’ll think more on this and write more if anything else comes to mind.


Author: Jennifer Lawson

Philosopher. That is all.

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