Implicit Stereotypes and the Predictive Brain: Cognition and Culture in 'Biased' Person Perception
9 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2017
Date Written: September 2017
Over the last 30 years there has been growing research into the concept of implicit stereotypes. Particularly using the Implicit Associations Test, it has been demonstrated that experimental participants show a response bias in support of a stereotypical association, such as “young” and “good” (and “old” and “bad”) indicating evidence of an implicit age stereotype. This has been found even for people who consciously reject the use of such stereotypes, and seek to be fair in their judgement of other people. This finding has been interpreted as a “cognitive bias”, implying an implicit prejudice within the individual. This article challenges that view: it is argued that implicit stereotypical associations (like any other implicit associations) have developed through the ordinary working of “the predictive brain”. The predictive brain is assumed to operate through Bayesian principles, developing associations through experience of their prevalence in the social world of the perceiver. If the predictive brain were to sample randomly or comprehensively then stereotypical associations would not be picked up if they did not represent the state of the world. However, people are born into culture, and communicate within social networks. Thus, the implicit stereotypical associations picked up by an individual do not reflect a cognitive bias but the associations prevalent within their culture—evidence of “culture in mind”. Therefore to understand implicit stereotypes, research should examine more closely the way associations are communicated within social networks rather than focusing exclusively on an implied cognitive bias of the individual.
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