Philosophical Studies

, Volume 166, Issue 2, pp 217–229 | Cite as

What are the cognitive costs of racism? A reply to Gendler



Tamar Gendler argues that, for those living in a society in which race is a salient sociological feature, it is impossible to be fully rational: members of such a society must either fail to encode relevant information containing race, or suffer epistemic costs by being implicitly racist. However, I argue that, although Gendler calls attention to a pitfall worthy of study, she fails to conclusively demonstrate that there are epistemic (or cognitive) costs of being racist. Gendler offers three supporting phenomena. First, implicit racists expend cognitive energy repressing their implicit biases. I reply, citing Ellen Bialystok’s research, that constant use of executive functioning can be beneficial. Second, Gendler argues that awareness of a negative stereotype of one’s own race with regard to a given task negatively affects one’s performance of that task. This phenomenon, I argue, demonstrates that those against whom the stigma is directed suffer costs, but it fails to demonstrate that the stigmatizers suffer cognitively. Finally, Gendler argues that racists are less competent when recognizing faces of other races than when recognizing faces of their own race because, in the first instance, they encode the race of the face (taking up cognitive space that could have been used to encode fine-grained distinctions), whereas in the second instance they encode no race. I argue that in-group/out-group categorization rather than racism is the cognitive cost. I conclude that Gendler has failed to demonstrate that there are cognitive costs associated with being a racist.


Implicit racism Implicit belief Bias Alief Tamar Gendler Stereotype-threat Cross-race facial deficit Executive function 



I would like to thank Muhammad Ali Khalidi, Kristin Andrews, Brian Hus, Devin Curry, Marc Champagne, and Jacob Beck for their comments on previous drafts of this paper. Thank you to Sharon Mugg for her helpful discussion and stylistic suggestions. Thank you to Alexis Shotwell for her comments on this paper at the Canadian Philosophical Association.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.TorontoCanada

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