Racial Attitudes, Accumulation Mechanisms, and Disparities

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 12 (4):953-975 (2021)
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Some psychologists aim to secure a role for psychological explanations in understanding contemporary social disparities, a concern that plays out in debates over the relevance of the Implicit Association Test. Meta-analysts disagree about the predictive validity of the IAT and about the importance of implicit attitudes in explaining racial disparities. Here, I use the IAT to articulate and explore one route to establishing the relevance of psychological attitudes with small effects: an appeal to a process of “accumulation” that aggregates small effects into large harms. After characterizing mechanisms of accumulation and considering some candidate examples, I argue that such mechanisms suggest how a contemporary attitude with small effects could figure in the explanation of large disparities, but they do not vindicate the importance of such an attitude since such mechanisms are typically also determined by competing causes. I close by sketching several strategies for advancing a defense of the relevance of attitudes with small effects.



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Ron Mallon
Washington University in St. Louis

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Explaining the brain: mechanisms and the mosaic unity of neuroscience.Carl F. Craver - 2007 - New York : Oxford University Press,: Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press.
Causality and explanation.Wesley C. Salmon - 1998 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Imperative of Integration.Elizabeth Anderson - 2010 - Princeton University Press.

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