2010 Implicit Bias and Pushback from Left

Implicit Bias and the Pushback from the Left

Implicit Bias and Pushback from the Left, 54 St. Louis L. Rev. 1139-50 (2010) (commentary to Childress Lecture by john a. powell).

Over the past three decades, the mind sciences have provided remarkable insights about how our brains process social categories. For example, scientists have discovered that implicit biases—in the form of stereotypes and attitudes that we are unaware of, do not consciously intend, and might reject upon conscious self-reflection—exist and have wide-ranging behavioral consequences. Such findings destabilize our self-serving self-conceptions as bias-free. Not surprisingly, there has been backlash from the political Right. This Article examines some aspects of the more surprising pushback from the Left.

Part I briefly explains how new findings in the mind sciences, especially Implicit Social Cognition, are incorporated into the law, legal scholarship, and legal institutions, under the banner of “behavioral realism.” Part II describes the pushback from the Left. Part III responds by suggesting that our deepest understanding of social hierarchy and discrimination requires analysis at multiple layers of knowledge. Instead of trading off knowledge, for example, at the cognitive layer for the sociological layer (or vice versa), we should seek understanding at each layer, and then interpenetrate the entire stack.