The imagination model of implicit bias

  • Anna WelpinghusEmail author


We can understand implicit bias as a person’s disposition to evaluate members of a social group in a less (or more) favorable light than members of another social group, without intending to do so. If we understand it this way, we should not presuppose a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how implicit cognitive states lead to skewed evaluations of other people. The focus of this paper is on implicit bias in considered decisions. It is argued that we have good reasons to assume that imagination plays a vital role in decision making. If this assumption is correct, it offers an explanation for implicit bias in many considered decisions: Human beings who have been frequently exposed to stereotypes have stereotype-congruent expectations as part of their background knowledge. They feed into their imagination, sometimes without their awareness. This model would allow us to explain the key characteristics of implicit bias without recurring to any unconscious attitudes over and above such background knowledge.


Implicit bias Stereotypes Imagination Social cognition 



Earlier versions of this paper were presented at a workshop on implicit attitudes at KWI Essen, at SWIP Germany’s jour fixe at HU Berlin, at the 4th mental fragmentation workshop at Graz University, and at the ECAP9 at LMU Munich. I thank all audiences for helpful discussions. I also thank Christine Bratu, Katja Crone, Lena Kästner, Andrea Lailach, Francesco Marchi, Nora Olbrisch, and last, but not least, an anonymous reviewer, for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Philosophie und PolitikwissenschaftTU Dortmund UniversityDortmundGermany

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