The Strength of Weak Stereotypes: Implicit Biases and other Irresistible Heuristics

Public Event
20 June 2017
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What exactly is a stereotype? Is it always negative to use stereotypes in order to parse information about the world around us? The world is overloaded with potentially relevant information, and stereotypes can be a “real-time saver” – frugal heuristics that allow us to ignore part of this information. But when do stereotypes go wrong? Inferring from the following sentence “The pilot of the plane has been replaced” that the pilot was a man, this is not a “bad” stereotype per se. Instead, a heuristic based on knowledge of the base rate distribution of women and men is employed in aviation. Thus, when is a gender stereotype a “bad” one? Today, there is extensive literature on heuristics – biases in our cognition – from the fields of psychology and philosophy, and this may help us to better understand when a bias is morally or socially objectionable or harms the advancement of research.