Assistant Professor of Philosophy, CUNY/John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Research

My research focuses on nondeliberative forms of thought and action.  In recent years I have worked to integrate empirical research on implicit social cognition with philosophical theorizing about the architecture of the mind.  My research has also focused on the relationship between nondeliberative action and the self, drawing on “self-disclosure” views of agency.  Finally, I have explored an ethics of automaticity focused both on how agents can regulate their unwanted attitudes and biases and also whether, and how, one’s “mere” inclinations and habits can ever become reliable guides toward ethical action.


Books

The Implicit Mind: Cognitive Architecture, the Self, and Ethics

Heroes are often admired for their ability to act without having "one thought too many," as Bernard Williams put it. Likewise, the unhesitating decisions of masterful athletes and artists are part of their fascination. Examples like these make clear that spontaneity can represent an ideal. However, recent literature in empirical psychology has shown how vulnerable our spontaneous inclinations can be to bias, shortsightedness, and irrationality. How can we make sense of these different roles that spontaneity plays in our lives? 

The central contention of this book is that understanding these two faces of spontaneity-its virtues and its vices-requires understanding the "implicit mind." In turn, understanding the implicit mind requires considering three sets of questions. The first set focuses on the architecture of the implicit mind itself. What kinds of mental states make up the implicit mind? Are both "virtue" and "vice" cases of spontaneity products of one and the same mental system? What kind of cognitive structure do these states have, if so? The second set of questions focuses on the relationship between the implicit mind and the self. How should we relate to our spontaneous inclinations and dispositions? Are they "ours," in the sense that they reflect on our character or identity? Are we responsible for them? The third set focuses on the ethics of spontaneity. What can research on self-regulation teach us about how to improve the ethics of our implicit minds? How can we enjoy the virtues of spontaneity without succumbing to its vices? 

Bringing together several streams of philosophical and psychological research, The Implicit Mind is the first book to offer a philosophical account of implicit attitudes.

Available now from Oxford University Press.

 

Implicit Bias and Philosophy: Volume 1, Metaphysics and Epistemology

There is abundant evidence that most people, often in spite of their conscious beliefs, values and attitudes, have implicit biases. 'Implicit bias' is a term of art referring to evaluations of social groups that are largely outside conscious awareness or control. These evaluations are typically thought to involve associations between social groups and concepts or roles like 'violent,' 'lazy,' 'nurturing,' 'assertive,' 'scientist,' and so on. Such associations result at least in part from common stereotypes found in contemporary liberal societies about members of these groups. 

Implicit Bias and Philosophy brings the work of leading philosophers and psychologists together to explore core areas of psychological research on implicit (or unconscious) bias, as well as the ramifications of implicit bias for core areas of philosophy. Volume I: Metaphysics and Epistemology is comprised of two sections: 'The Nature of Implicit Attitudes, Implicit Bias, and Stereotype Threat,' and 'Skepticism, Social Knowledge, and Rationality.' The first section contains chapters examining the relationship between implicit attitudes and 'dual process' models of the mind; the role of affect in the formation and change of implicit associations; the unity (or disunity) of implicit attitudes; whether implicit biases are mental states at all; and whether performances on stereotype-relevant tasks are automatic and unconscious or intentional and strategic. The second section contains chapters examining implicit bias and skepticism; the effects of implicit bias on scientific research; the accessibility of social stereotypes in epistemic environments; the effects of implicit bias on the self-perception of members of stigmatized social groups as rational agents; the role of gender stereotypes in philosophy; and the role of heuristics in biased reasoning. 

Edited with Jennifer Saul.  Available now from Oxford              University Press.  

 

Implicit Bias and Philosophy: Volume 2, Moral Responsibility, Structural Injustice, and Ethics  

There is abundant evidence that most people, often in spite of their conscious beliefs, values and attitudes, have implicit biases. 'Implicit bias' is a term of art referring to evaluations of social groups that are largely outside conscious awareness or control. These evaluations are typically thought to involve associations between social groups and concepts or roles like 'violent,' 'lazy,' 'nurturing,' 'assertive,' 'scientist,' and so on. Such associations result at least in part from common stereotypes found in contemporary liberal societies about members of these groups. 

Implicit Bias and Philosophy brings the work of leading philosophers and psychologists together to explore core areas of psychological research on implicit (or unconscious) bias, as well as the ramifications of implicit bias for core areas of philosophy. Volume 2: Moral Responsibility, Structural Injustice, and Ethics is comprised of three sections. 'Moral Responsibility for Implicit Bias' contains chapters examining the relationship of implicit biases to concepts that are central to moral responsibility, including control, awareness, reasons-responsiveness, and alienation. The chapters in the second section--'Structural Injustice'--explore the connections between the implicit biases held by individuals and the structural injustices of the societies in which they are situated. And finally, the third section--'The Ethics of Implicit Bias: Theory and Practice'--contains chapters examining strategies for implicit attitude change, the ramifications of research on implicit bias for philosophers working in ethics, and suggestions for combating implicit biases in the fields of philosophy and law.           

Edited with Jennifer Saul.  Available now from Oxford        University Press.  


Recent Publications

Self-Control and Overcontrol: Conceptual, Ethical, and Ideological Issues in Positive Psychology2018. Review of Philosophy and Psychology.

Stereotypes, Prejudice, and the Taxonomy of the Implicit Social Mind. With Alex Madva. 2016. Noûs

Implicit Attitudes, Social Learning, and Moral Credibility. 2017. Routledge Handbook of the Social Mind.

Implicit Bias and Race.  Forthcoming in the Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race.

Doing without believing: Intellectualism, knowledge-how, and belief-attribution. With Eliot Michaelson. 2015. Synthese.

Attributionism and Moral Responsibility for Implicit Bias. 2015. Review of Philosophy and Psychology

When bias is implicit, how might we think about repairing harm? 2015. Current Opinion in Psychology 6, 183-188.

Implicit BiasOverview article for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Implicit Bias, Context, and Character. Forthcoming. In Brownstein, M. and Saul, J. (Eds). Implicit Bias and Philosophy: Volume 2, Moral Responsibility, Structural Injustice, and Ethics. Oxford University Press.

Rationalizing Flow: Agency in Skilled Unreflective Action2013. Philosophical Studies

Ethical AutomaticityWith Alex Madva. 2012. Philosophy of the Social  Sciences 42:1, 67-97.

The Normativity of AutomaticityWith Alex Madva. 2012. Mind and Language 27:4, 410-434.


Recent and Upcoming Presentations

“The Habit Stance: Cultivating Ethical Implicit Attitudes,” Keynote Address at the symposium on “The Logic of Racial Practice: Embodied Cognition, Habitus, and Implicit Bias,” University of Pittsburgh, April 12, 2018

Brooklyn Public Philosophers, April 27th 2016

Keynote address for the Columbia University School of General Studies Honor Society Induction

Comments on Ted Slingerland's Trying Not To Try at the Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy

Doing without Believing (with Eliot Michaelson), at the North Carolina Philosophical Society, UNC Chapel Hill.  Winner, Best Essay in category of Untenured Faculty


Works in Progress

Understanding Implicit Bias: How the Critics Miss the Point

With Alex Madva and Bertram Gawronski.  Draft

The Role of Affect and Motivation in Norms-Based Interventions for Social Change.

With Alex Madva and Daniel Kelly.  Abstract.


Recent Courses

Intellectual Foundations I: What is the Common Good?

This multidisciplinary course considers how different intellectual traditions -- specifically philosophy, history, psychology, and evolutionary biology -- frame seminal questions about the nature of the common good.  Syllabus

Living Well During Dangerous Times: An Incomplete Philosophical History

How does one live well during dangerous times?  This course considers various answers to this question.  Key themes covered are stoicism, virtue ethics, existentialism, and civil disobedience.  Syllabus

Race and Education

This course focuses on the role of stereotypes, prejudice, and social group membership in student experiences and outcomes from primary school through college in the United States.  Readings are drawn from philosophical and psychological literature, and well as popular narratives.  The aim of the course is to address the intersection of race and education from both theoretical and practical perspectives.  What are the best ways to understand the relevant social and individual challenges?  And how can these challenges be overcome?  Syllabus

Philosophy and Psychology of Race and Gender

Persistent inequalities between social groups are a blight on modern, liberal democracies, which pride themselves on the idea of justice and fairness for all.  This course focuses on inequalities having to do with race and gender, with special emphasis of the psychology of prejudice.  Syllabus

Understanding Technological Society (through Food)

This course examines the impact of science and technology on politics, economics, culture, health, and morality.  We will focus on one particular example: food.  Topics include: industrial agriculture, food and justice, food and community, and the ethics of eating.  This course includes a service learning component, guest lectures, film, and a variety of technical and non-technical readings.  Syllabus

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature

This course focuses on four topics that philosophers have thought about for thousands of years: happiness, morality, virtue and free will.  In recent years, scientists have begun to examine these same subjects, bringing to bear on them the modern tools of their trade (experimental studies, statistical analysis, etc.).  This course has three aims: (1) to use any tools we can in order to understand something about these really really really important questions; (2) to examine the very methodological promiscuity assumed in (1); and (3) to re-examine our beliefs and maybe even change our lives a little in light of what we learn.  Syllabus

Mind and Machines

 Is the mind like an extraordinarily complex machine?  If so, what kind of machine is it like?  This course examines the most contemporary mechanical metaphor for the mind: the computer.  The idea that the mind is like a computer is the founding assumption of modern cognitive science.  In trying to understand how the mind is or is not like a computer, we will take what John Haugeland calls a “mind design” approach; that is, we will try to understand what the mind is like by thinking about how it is built.  Syllabus


New Projects

Workshop: Can Psychology Improve Policing?  

Organized with Susanna Siegel.  April 29th 2016 at Harvard University.  Details here.

Implicit Bias Training

For the Pima County Superior Court, Juvenile Court, and Consolidated Justice Court.  July 2015, with Alex Madva.  Participant survey results both immediately following the training and 3 months later here.  Coverage from the National Association of State Judicial Educators here.

Program Chair (with Deena Weisberg and Felipe de Brigard), 41st Annual Meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology

June 4-6, 2015 at Duke University.  Info here.

Toward Habitual Egalitarianism: Prejudice Reduction and Control over Implicit Attitudes

With Brian Nosek, Alex Madva, and Calvin Lai.  Proposal to study long-term prejudice reduction and its philosophical ramifications.  Proposal

Stats for Philosophers

Free one-day workshop for philosophers interested in becoming more competent readers of empirical literature.  

Workshop speakers: Joshua Knobe (Yale, philosophy and psychology); Edouard Machery (Pitt, HPS); Virginia Valian (Hunter, psychology); Siminie Vazire (Washington, psychology)

Friday, November 8, 2013 at the CUNY Graduate Center

Video of the talks here: Knobe, Machery, Valian, Vazire


More About Me

I'm married to the fiber artist Reine Hewitt.  We live in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn with our three kids, Leda, Iggy, and Minerva; our dog, Frances; and six laying hens (Jumper, Chickie, Brown Stripe, Black Stripe, Comfort, and Puffin). 

I am also a board member and past President of the Ft. Greene Tennis Association, which recently raised over $60,000 to repair our neighborhood tennis courts (before and after).  I serve as an adviser to the Ft. Greene Park Conservancy as well.