Researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Harvard, and the University of Virginia examined 499 studies over 20 years involving 80,859 participants that used the IAT and other, similar measures. They discovered two things: One is that the correlation between implicit bias and discriminatory behavior appears weaker than previously thought. They also conclude that there is very little evidence that changes in implicit bias have anything to do with changes in a person’s behavior. These findings, they write, "produce a challenge for this area of research."
That’s putting it mildly. "When you actually look at the evidence we collected, there’s not necessarily strong evidence for the conclusions people have drawn," says Patrick Forscher, a co-author of the paper, which is currently under review at Psychological Bulletin. The finding that changes in implicit bias don’t lead to changes in behavior, Forscher says, "should be stunning"....
Everyone agrees that the statistical effect linking bias to behavior is slight. They only disagree about how slight. Blanton’s 2013 meta-analysis found less of a link than a 2009 meta-analysis by Banaji and Greenwald. Blanton sees the correlation as so small as to be trivial. Banaji and Greenwald, in a 2015 paper, argue that "statistically small effects" can have "societally large effects."
The new analysis seems to bolster Blanton’s less-sanguine take. It found that the correlation between implicit bias and behavior was even smaller than what Blanton had reported. That came as a surprise, the researchers write.
Another surprise is that one of the co-authors of the paper is Brian Nosek, who is — along with Greenwald and Banaji — one of the three founders of the IAT. Nosek, best known these days as the director of the Center for Open Science and an advocate for better research practices, is well aware that this paper will provide aid and comfort to critics of the test he helped create....
He does defend the IAT, noting that it’s engaged millions of people in a conversation about the science of bias. He points to the test’s successes, like experiments that show how it can predict who someone would favor in a presidential election by tracking their associations. But what he calls the "very weak overall" connection between implicit bias and discriminatory behavior should, he believes, put researchers on notice. "You would think that if you change the associations, and the associations predict behavior, then the behavior would change too," Nosek says. "But the evidence is really limited on it."
Patrick Forscher, who shares the title of first author of the paper with Calvin Lai, a Harvard postdoc, thinks that there’s been pressure on researchers over the years to make the science of implicit bias sound more definitive and relevant than the evidence justifies. "A lot of people want to know, How do we tackle these disparities?" says Forscher, a postdoc at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "It makes us feel important to say, Aha, we have these measures that can tell us what the problem is, and, not only that, we can tell them how to fix the problem."
That’s essentially Blanton’s argument as well. Public discussion about implicit bias has been based largely on the results from one particular test, and that test, in his view, has been falsely sold as solid science. "They have engaged the public in a way that has wrapped the feeling of science and weight around a lot of ‘cans’ and ‘maybes,’" Blanton says. "Most of your score on this test is noise, and what signal there is, we don’t know what it is or what it means."
I trust the philosophers who jumped on this bandwagon will now rethink their positions in light of the actual evidence. If one is looking for an explanation for the obstacles women face in philosophy, perhaps explicit bias and sexual harassment deserve the real attention.
(As a sidenote, and a reminder of the totalitarian environment in some departments, the PhD student who sent this to me asked not to be named since, "Folks in my department take this stuff as gospel, so I'd rather not be targeted as a skeptic." After this newest research, anyone who still takes it as "gospel" will have a lot in common with those who take the actual gospel literally.)
What you're calling "elitism" is just simply not being ignorant. We don't have our heads shoved up Jesus's ass. And when the left gets angry because of how fucking dumb some of the shit coming out of rural and red mouths is, we're told we need to understand what they believe. No, we're just gonna say that stupid is stupid.
Philosopher Nick Smith (Sydney) kindly tipped me off to this great Australian band that never really made it outside Australia, though "the Masters" (as they were known locally, no apostrophe!) had several top 20 hits in Australia from the mid-60s through about 1971 (e.g., this lip-sync version of "Turn Up Your Radio" from 1970)--they started as more of a "garage rock"-turned-pop band, though by the time of 1971's fabulousChoice Cuts(from which both tunes below come), they had a different hard blues rock sound, more evocative of Ten Years After (think A Space in Time) (Choice Cuts was, in fact, recorded in late 1970 in London). Nick Smith recommended the live version of "Michael" from Choice Cuts, which is definitely worth a listen:
And here's another one from that album that caught my fancy, "I'm Your Satisfier":
It appears some readers missed this item added as an update to the Parfit post earlier this week, so I post it again here:
Jeff McMahan (Oxford) writes: "I believe that the last public talk he gave was to the moral philosophy seminar here in Oxford in November. In it he presented some new ideas that he was continuing to develop up until the moment of his death. Fortunately the talk was recorded. Here is the link if you think it would be worth posting it on your blog: http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/moral/MT16_DP.mp4."
...from Peter Adamson (KCL/Munich). They seem fairly sensible. (I might quibble with #17, at least in the case of historical figures who have been subjected to exhaustive and sophisticated philosophical commentary--their the secondary literature may of co-equal importance with the primary text, at least for someone motivated by the philosophical issues.) What do readers who work in history of philosophy think? Submit your comment only once, they may take awhile to appear (busy day!).
There are more than 200 suggestions by a diverse group of contributors, including many non-scientists, some philosophers (e.g., Daniel Dennett, Andy Clark), and even one charlatan. It's an interesting list, though a few of the concepts seem to me more the purview of pseudo-science (or not-well-confirmed scientific ideas or concepts).
I wish a Happy New Year to all readers! These are grim times, but I dearly hope we are all wrong in our expectations. I am grateful to you for reading, and to so many of you for your correspondence, and your kindness over the years.
Like most folks, I make my various private resolutions, but here I want to share some public ones that affect you, dear readers.
First, I will be taking a blog hiatus in summer 2017: June through August. This doesn't mean I won't blog at all, I probably will occasionally post something when it strikes my fancy (and I will post the list of new books that I receive each summer month, per usual). But I won't be trying to offer weekly fare, and I won't be selling advertising. The reasons are simple. I started the blog in August 2003, before blogging was a "thing", and it remains the most widely read philosophy-related blog in the world (nearly five million page views last year!). But certain developments have led me to rethink what I am doing with my time (even though the blog occupies a fairly small amount of it). I want to take a break next summer to assess things. I will, of course, continue active blogging through May, and I expect to resume next September, though maybe on a reduced schedule, but we'll see. But after almost 14 years, it's time for an extended vacation.
Second, I will be running some reader polls about blog content. Obviously, in the wake of the electoral catastrophe, I spent more time on politics than usual. I could continue to do so, or not. But in general, I would like to gauge what topics readers are especially interested in.
The percentage of workers engaged in alternative work arrangements – defined as temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, and independent contractors or freelancers – rose from 10.1 percent [of all employed workers] in February 2005 to 15.8 percent in late 2015.
That is a huge jump, especially since the percentage of workers with alternative work arrangements barely budged over the period February 1995 to February 2005; it was only 9.3 in 1995.
But their most startling finding is the following:
A striking implication of these estimates is that all of the net employment growth in the U.S. economy from 2005 to 2015 appears to have occurred in alternative work arrangements. Total employment according to the CPS increased by 9.1 million (6.5 percent) over the decade, from 140.4 million in February 2005 to 149.4 in November 2015. The increase in the share of workers in alternative work arrangements from 10.1 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2015 implies that the number of workers employed in alternative arrangement increased by 9.4 million (66.5 percent), from 14.2 million in February 2005 to 23.6 million in November 2015. Thus, these figures imply that employment in traditional jobs (standard employment arrangements) slightly declined by 0.4 million (0.3 percent) from 126.2 million in February 2005 to 125.8 million in November 2015.
Take a moment to let that sink in—and think about what that tells us about the operation of the US economy and the future for working people. Employment in so-called traditional jobs is actually shrinking. The only types of jobs that have been growing in net terms are ones in which workers have little or no security and minimal social benefits....
There is a clear age gradient that has grown stronger, with older workers more likely to have nonstandard employment than younger workers. In 2015, 6.4 percent of those aged 16 to 24 were employed in an alternative work arrangement, while 14.3 percent of those aged 25-54 and 23.9 percent of those aged 55-74 had nonstandard work arrangements.
The percentage of women with nonstandard work arrangements grew dramatically from 2005 to 2015, from 8.3 percent to 17 percent. Women are now more likely to be employed under these conditions than men.
Workers in all educational levels experienced a jump in nonstandard work, with the increase greatest for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. “Occupational groups experiencing particularly large increases in the nonstandard work from 2005 to 2015 include computer and mathematical, community and social services, education, health care, legal, protective services, personal care, and transportation jobs.”
The authors also tested to determine “whether alternative work is growing in higher or lower wage sectors of the labor market.” They found that “workers with attributes and jobs that are associated with higher wages are more likely to have their services contracted out than are those with attributes and jobs that are associated with lower wages. Indeed, the lowest predicted quintile-wage group did not experience a rise in contract work.”
The take-away is pretty clear. Corporate profits and income inequality have grown in large part because US firms have successfully taken advantage of the weak state of unions and labor organizing more generally, to transform work relations. Increasingly workers, regardless of their educational level, find themselves forced to take jobs with few if any benefits and no long-term or ongoing relationship with their employer. Only a rejuvenated labor movement, one able to build strong democratic unions and press for radically new economic policies will be able to reverse existing trends.
Peter Lewis (philosophy of physics and science, formal epistemology) and Amie Thomasson (metaphysics, philosophy of art, philosophy of mind, phenomenology), both tenured philosophers at the University of Miami, have accepted tenured offers from the Department of Philosophy at Dartmouth College, where they will start in the 2017-18 academic year. That's a significant loss for Miami, though that department generally enjoys strong administrative support so I imagine they will make new hires in an effort to replace them.
Derek Parfit, the hugely influential English moral philosopher, passed away unexpectedly last night. He spent his entire academic career at Oxford University, though he also taught on a regular visiting basis at Harvard University, New York University, and Rutgers University at New Brunswick.
I will post links to memorial notices as they appear.
ANOTHER: Via John Tasioulas, I came across this nice video of Derek Parfit discussing personal identity from a British documentary:
AND ANOTHER: Jeff McMahan (Oxford) writes: "I believe that the last public talk he gave was to the moral philosophy seminar here in Oxford in November. In it he presented some new ideas that he was continuing to develop up until the moment of his death. Fortunately the talk was recorded. Here is the link if you think it would be worth posting it on your blog: http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/moral/MT16_DP.mp4."
There is no sign that 2017 will be much different from 2016.
Under Israeli occupation for decades, Gaza will still be the biggest open prison on Earth..
In the United States, the killing of black people at the hands of the police will proceed unabated and hundreds of thousands more will join those already housed in the prison-industrial complex that came on the heels of plantation slavery and Jim Crow laws.
Europe will continue its slow descent into liberal authoritarianism or what cultural theorist Stuart Hall called authoritarian populism. Despite complex agreements reached at international forums, the ecological destruction of the Earth will continue and the war on terror will increasingly morph into a war of extermination between various forms of nihilism.
Inequalities will keep growing worldwide. But far from fuelling a renewed cycle of class struggles, social conflicts will increasingly take the form of racism, ultra nationalism, sexism, ethnic and religious rivalries, xenophobia, homophobia and other deadly passions.
The denigration of virtues such as care, compassion and kindness will go hand in hand with the belief, especially among the poor, that winning is all that matters and who wins — by whatever means necessary — is ultimately right.
With the triumph of this neo-Darwinian approach to history-making, apartheid under various guises will be restored as the new old norm. Its restoration will pave the way to new separatist impulses, the erection of more walls, the militarisation of more borders, deadly forms of policing, more asymmetrical wars, splitting alliances and countless internal divisions including in established democracies.
None of the above is accidental. If anything, it is a symptom of structural shifts, which will become ever more apparent as the new century unfolds. The world as we knew it since the end of World War II, the long years of decolonisation, the Cold War and the defeat of communism has ended.
Another long and deadlier game has started. The main clash of the first half of the 21st century will not oppose religions or civilisations. It will oppose liberal democracy and neoliberal capitalism, the rule of finance and the rule of the people, humanism and nihilism.
If there's anything wrong with this diagnosis is that it understates the role of capitalist logic in everything that came before too. And from the conclusion:
Neoliberal capitalism has left in its wake a multitude of destroyed subjects, many of whom are deeply convinced that their immediate future will be one of continuous exposure to violence and existential threat.
They genuinely long for a return to some sense of certainty, the sacred, hierarchy, religion and tradition. They believe that nations have become akin to swamps that need to be drained and the world as it is should be brought to an end. For this to happen, everything should be cleansed off. They are convinced that they can only be saved in a violent struggle to restore their masculinity, the loss of which they attribute to the weaker among them, the weak they do not want to become.
In this context, the most successful political entrepreneurs will be those who convincingly speak to the losers, to the destroyed men and women of globalisation and to their ruined identities.
In the street fight politics will become, reason will not matter. Nor will facts. Politics will revert into brutal survivalism in an ultracompetitive environment.
Individually none of these three were obscure--they found fame with Cream (Jack Bruce) and Mountain (Leslie West & Corky Laing)--but their brief early 70s career as a "super trio" is generally (and not wrongly) forgotten, but this is one of a handful of strong numbers from their debut album in 1972 ("Turn Me Over" and "Pleasure" from that same album are also worth a listen--both feature Bruce on vocals, unlike "The Doctor" which features West.)
The passing of the following philosophers was noted on the blog during 2016: Jose Benardete, Klaus Brinkmann, Desmond Clarke, William Craig, Clement Dore, Jr., Solomon Feferman, Robert Fogelin, Mary Hesse, Dale Jacquette, Tomis Kapitan, Justin Leiber, Hugh McCann, Hilary Putnam, Jerome Shaffer, Morton White. You can find more information, including (often) links to obituaries by scrolling through the "Philosophy Updates" category (in which this post also appears).
I appreciate the many blog readers who also read my scholarly writing--it has been one of the best things about the blog for years that it has been a vehicle for sharing my work with other faculty and students across many fields. In that spirit, here are publications--or working drafts--that I made available this year:
"Philosophy of Law," co-authored with Michael Sevel, in the Encyclopedia Britannica (if you can't access the whole essay, google "philosophy of law," it should come up as a top result and you can get the whole essay that way)
Fewer American adults, especially those under 30, attend church — or even belong to a church. They tell interviewers their religion is “none.” They ignore faith.
Since 1990, the “nones” have exploded rapidly as a sociological phenomenon — from 10 percent of U.S. adults, to 15 percent, to 20 percent. Now they’ve climbed to 25 percent, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.
That makes them the nation’s largest faith category, outstripping Catholics (21 percent) and white evangelicals (16 percent). They seem on a trajectory to become an outright majority. America is following the secular path of Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and other modern places. The Secular Age is snowballing.
Good work capitalism! Of course, the "nones" make up an even bigger part of certain elite institutions, such as universities. I would guess the percentage of "nones" on the law faculty here, for example, is on the order of 75%.
Our basic contention is that one grandstands when one makes a contribution to public moral discourse that aims to convince others that one is “morally respectable.” By this we mean that grandstanding is a use of moral talk that attempts to get others to make certain desired judgments about oneself, namely, that one is worthy of respect or admiration because one has some particular moral quality—for example, an impressive commitment to justice, a highly tuned moral sensibility, or unparalleled powers of empathy. To grandstand is to turn one's contribution to public discourse into a vanity project.
I will resist naming the professional philosophers who should read this, but you know who you are (or at least your colleagues know who you are)! The paper also incorporates a useful discussion of group polarization, which as we've noted before, is quite relevant to the phenomenon.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)