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Dissolving the epistemic/ethical dilemma over implicit bias.

Puddifoot, Katherine (2017) 'Dissolving the epistemic/ethical dilemma over implicit bias.', Philosophical explorations., 20 (sup1). pp. 73-93.


It has been argued that humans can face an ethical/epistemic dilemma over the automatic stereotyping involved in implicit bias: ethical demands require that we consistently treat people equally, as equally likely to possess certain traits, but if our aim is knowledge or understanding our responses should reflect social inequalities meaning that members of certain social groups are statistically more likely than others to possess particular features. I use psychological research to argue that often the best choice from the epistemic perspective is the same as the best choice from the ethical perspective: to avoid automatic stereotyping even when this involves failing to reflect social realities in our judgements. This argument has an important implication: it shows that it is not possible to successfully defend an act of automatic stereotyping simply on the basis that the stereotype reflects an aspect of social reality. An act of automatic stereotyping can be poor from an epistemic perspective even if the stereotype that is activated reflects reality.

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Publisher statement:© 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Date accepted:05 December 2016
Date deposited:23 October 2018
Date of first online publication:11 April 2017
Date first made open access:23 October 2018

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