New project - Bias and blame: Do moral interactions modulate the expression of implicit bias?

18 December 2013

The Leverhulme Trust has awarded a 36-month grant to the University of Nottingham, for a project led by my collaborator Dr Jules Holroyd, with support from myself. The project title is ‘Bias and blame: Do moral interactions modulate the expression of implicit bias?’ (abstract below).

The aim is to conduct experiments to advance our understanding of how implicit biases are regulated by ‘moral interactions’ - these are things such as being blamed, or being held responsible. The grant will pay for a postdoc (Robin Scaife) in Sheffield and a PhD student in Nottingham.

Obviously, this is something of a departure for myself, at least as far as the topic goes, which is why Jules leads. I’m hoping my background in decision making and training in experimental design will help me navigate the new conceptual waters of implicit bias.

Some credit for inspiring the project should go to Jenny Saul and her Bias Project, and before that, Alec Patton and his faith in interdisciplinary dialogue that helped get Jules and myself talking about how experiments and philosophical analysis could help each other out.

Project abstract:

This project will investigate whether moral interactions are useful tool for regulating implicit bias. Studies have shown that implicit biases - automatic associations which operate without reflective control - can lead to unintentionally differential or unfair treatment of stigmatised individuals. Such biases are widespread, resistant to deliberate moderation, and have a significant role in influencing judgement and action.

Strategies for regulating implicit bias have been developed, tested and evaluated by psychologists and philosophers. But neither have explored whether holding individuals responsible for implicit biases may help or hinder their regulation. This is what we propose to do.