, Volume 156, Issue 1, pp 33-63
Date: 01 Sep 2011

On the epistemic costs of implicit bias

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Prologue: two apparently unrelated stories (don’t let the details distract you…)

Base rates and the CIA

The Central Intelligence Agency’s Psychology of Intelligence Analysis (Heuer 1999) provides concise and practical summaries of recent work in cognitive psychology using real-world examples intended to help CIA agents perform their daily activities more effectively.

In his Foreword, CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence Douglas MacEachin notes: “I know from first-hand encounters that many CIA officers tend to react skeptically to treatises on analytic epistemology. This is understandable.” (Heuer 1999) I know likewise from first-hand encounters that many analytic epistemologists tend to react skeptically to CIA treatises on intelligence analysis (cf. Gendler and Hawthorne 2005; as well as responses to von Fintel and Gillies 2008). While this too is understandable, it would be misplaced in this particular case.

Its 12th chapter—“Biases in Estimating Probabilities”—describes a number of wide ...