Implicit Social Cognition and Law
Posted: 27 Dec 2007 Last revised: 15 Apr 2013
Experimental psychology has provided substantial evidence that the human mind can operate in automatic, uncontrollable fashion as well as without conscious awareness of its workings and the sources of influence on it. With methods available to measure implicit or less conscious aspects of social cognition, especially group-specific attitudes and stereotypes, several aspects of the nature of implicit social cognition are now regarded as well established. Such results primarily include the pervasive and robust implicit favoritism for one's own groups and socially dominant groups, the dissociation between implicit and explicit social cognition, the ability of both to predict behavior, the greater impact of the former on certain discriminatory behaviors, and the sensitivity of seemingly implicit thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to change in response to situational features and experience. Legal scholarship and judicial opinions are beginning to consider how the law can and should adapt to such findings, in particular how they call into question existing assumptions regarding the notion of intent, and their relevance for anti-discrimination law.
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Keywords: psychology and law, unconscious cognition, implicit bias, intent, discrimination, behavioral realism, equal protection, Title VII
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