Bias in Context: Psychological and Structural Explanations

Bias in Context: Psychological and Structural Explanations


September 5, 2016 7:00 am — September 6, 2016 4:00 pm

Contact Erin Beeghly for more information.


What is the relationship between psychological and structural explanations of persistent social injustice?
Much empirical and philosophical work focuses on individualistic psychological explanations for ongoing injustice. Such explanations appeal to phenomena such as prejudice, implicit bias, stereotyping, and stereotype threat, in order to understand persisting inequities in a broad range of contexts, including educational, corporate, and informal social contexts (Valian 1997; Fricker 2007; Anderson 2010; Antony 2012; Saul, 2013).
A key challenge to this body of work maintains that the focus on individual psychology is at best obfuscatory of, and at worst totally irrelevant to, more fundamental causes of injustice, which are institutional and structural (Young 1990; Cudd 2006, Ayala 2015, Haslanger 2015).
Yet structural explanations face difficulties accommodating the extent to which individual agency is implicated in those problematic structures or institutions. Nor are they well placed to articulate how individual agency might be directed towards changing these structures.
The aim of this conference is to examine the relationship between psychological explanations and structural explanations of injustice. This work will generate more fully worked-out understandings of the interaction between these two kinds of explanation. These understandings can inform both future empirical study, institutional policy, and individual and collective action.