Social Justice Research

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 272–289 | Cite as

Do Theories of Implicit Race Bias Change Moral Judgments?

  • C. Daryl Cameron
  • B. Keith Payne
  • Joshua Knobe


Recent research in social psychology suggests that people harbor “implicit race biases,” biases which can be unconscious or uncontrollable. Because awareness and control have traditionally been deemed necessary for the ascription of moral responsibility, implicit biases present a unique challenge: do we pardon discrimination based on implicit biases because of its unintentional nature, or do we punish discrimination regardless of how it comes about? The present experiments investigated the impact such theories have upon moral judgments about racial discrimination. The results show that different theories differ in their impact on moral judgments: when implicit biases are defined as unconscious, people hold the biased agent less morally responsible than when these biases are defined as automatic (i.e., difficult to control), or when no theory of implicit bias is provided.


Implicit bias Moral judgment Unconscious Automatic Stereotyping Responsibility 



This research was supported in part by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awarded to C. Daryl Cameron. We thank Lawrence J. Sanna, Paul Miceli, and Lindsay Kennedy for helpful comments on this research. We also thank everyone involved in the UNC Social Psychology Organizational Research Group who provided useful feedback during presentation of this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Daryl Cameron
    • 1
  • B. Keith Payne
    • 1
  • Joshua Knobe
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Program in Cognitive Science and Department of PhilosophyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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