Thursday, July 20, 2017

Implicit Bias, The Implicit Association Test, And Very Bad Science

Jesse Singal: "Psychology's Favorite Tool For Measuring Racism Isn't Up To The Job."
   Long, but more than worth a read. My own view is that, currently, much of the pro-IAT stuff is damn near pseudoscience. And, lurking behind the discussion, is the fact that the partisans of the IAT are rather clearly motivated, in part, by political commitments. Perhaps some day we'll find that the IAT actually tells us something about "implicit bias." (Though "implicit bias" itself is a tangle that desperately needs untangling.) But today is not that day. All we can currently really say, overall, about the IAT is that it's an interesting idea that doesn't seem to work and that has been radically overblown, largely for political reasons.
   As a sidebar: it's long been of interest to me that the intellectual and political left is known for its commitment to the view that political bias in inquiry is pervasive. However, when we look at actual cases and actual evidence of actual political bias in inquiry--instead of sweeping speculations and presuppositions--what we tend to find, IMO, is that such bias is extremely common and identifiable on the left itself. Perhaps the non-left is just as bad or worse...I'm skeptical, but I'm not the best person to judge. It wouldn't be surprising if the left were worse given, for example, that many on the left hold that objectivity is impossible, therefore non-obligatory--and even that certain biases are virtuous. But it'd be difficult to do a meaningful and accurate comparison.

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