Philosophical Studies

, Volume 166, Issue 2, pp 217–229

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

Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

References

  1. Ambady, N., Shih, M., Kim, A., & Pittinsky, T. L. (2001). Stereotype susceptibility in children: Effects of identity activation on quantitative performance. Psychological Science, 12(5), 385–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Appiah, K. A. (1996). Race, culture, identity: Misunderstood connections. In K. A. Appiah & A. Guttmann (Eds.), Color conscious: The political morality of race. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Aronson, J., Lustina, M. J., Good, C., Keough, K., Steele, C. M., & Browin, J. (1999). When white men can’t do math: Necessary and sufficient factors in stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35(1), 29–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bernstein, M. J., Young, S. G., & Hugenberg, K. (2007). The cross-race category effect: Mere social categorization is sufficient to elicit an own-group bias in face recognition. Psychological Science, 18(8), 706–712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I. M., & Freedman, M. (2007). Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia. Neuropsychologia, 45, 459–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I. M., & Luk, G. (2008). Lexical access in bilinguals: Effects of vocabulary size and executive control. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 21, 522–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bialystok, E., Luk, G., Peets, K.F., & Yang, S. (in press). Receptive vocabulary differences in monolingual and bilingual children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.Google Scholar
  8. Carlson, Stephanie. (2005). Developmentally sensitive measures of executive function in preschool children. Developmental Neuropsychology, 28(2), 595–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carlson, Stephanie, & Meltzoff, Andrew. (2008). Bilingual experience and executive functioning in young children. Developmental Science, 11(2), 282–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Costa, A., Hernandez, M., & Sebastian-Galles, N. (2008). Bilingualism aids conflict resolution: Evidence from the ANT task. Cognition, 106, 59–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dovidio, J. F., Gaertner, S. L., & Kawakami, K. (2011). Racism. In J. F. Dovidio, M. Hewstone, P. Glick, & V. M. Esses (2011). Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Gendler, Tamar. (2008). Alief and belief. Journal of Philosophy, 105(10), 634–663.Google Scholar
  13. Gendler, Tamar. (2011). On the epistemic costs of implicit bias. Philosophical Studies, 156, 33–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kurzban, R., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2001). Can race be erased? Coalitional computation and social categorization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98(26), 15387–15392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. LaFree, G., Baumer, E. P., & O’Brien, R. (2010). Still separate and unequal? A city-level analysis of the black-white gap in homicide arrests since 1960. American Sociological Review, 75(1), 75–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Meissner, C. A., & Brigham, J. C. (2001). Thirty years of investigating the own-race bias in memory for faces: A meta-analytic review. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 7(1), 3–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Michael, E. B., & Gollan, T. H. (2005). Being and becoming bilingual: Individual differences and consequences for language production. In J. F. Kroll & A. M. B. de Groot (Eds.), Handbook of bilingualism: Psycholinguistic approaches (pp. 389–407). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Muraven, M., & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Self-regulation and depletion of limited resources: Does self-control resemble a muscle? Psychological Bulletin, 126, 247–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Richeson, J. A., & Shelton, J. N. (2007). Negotiating interracial interactions: Costs, consequences, and possibilities. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(6), 316–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Richeson, J. A., Trawalter, S., & Shelton, J. N. (2005). African Americans’ racial attitudes and the depletion of executive function after interracial interactions. Social Cognition, 23, 336–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Shih, M., Pittinsky, T. L., & Trahan, A. (2006). Domain-specific effects of stereotypes on performance. Self and Identity, 5(1), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(5), 797–811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stone, J. (2002). Battling doubt by avoiding practice: The effects of stereotype threat on selfhandicapping in white athletes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(12), 1667–1678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Stone, J., Lynch, C. I., Sjomeling, M., & Darley, J. M. (1999). Stereotype threat effects on black and white athletic performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1213–1227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Tetlock, P. F., Kristel, O., Elson, B., Green, M., & Lerner, J. (2000). The psychology of the unthinkable: Taboo trade-offs, forbidden base rates, and heretical counterfactuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(5), 853–870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.TorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations