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PULSE Symposium announcement

Implicit Bias in the Courtroom: Theoretical Problems and Concrete Solutions

Public Conference: March 3, 2011

The problems of overt discrimination have received an enormous amount of attention from lawyers, judges, and policy-makers. While explicit sexism, racism, and other forms of bias still exist, they have become less prominent and public as compared to earlier periods of our shared history.   But explicit bias and overt discrimination are only part of the problem.  Perhaps equally important are questions surrounding implicit bias — stereotypes or attitudes that affect our behavior, our understanding, and the decisions that we make, without our even realizing it.

How prevalent and significant are these implicit, unintentional biases? Over the past decade, cognitive and social psychologists have discovered novel ways to measure their existence.  A growing body of research strongly suggests that they are pervasive, large in magnitude, and have substantial real-world effects.   These fascinating discoveries, which have migrated from the science journals into the law reviews and popular media, are beginning to reshape fundamental understandings of discrimination and fairness.

Given the substantial and growing scientific literature on implicit bias, the time has now come to confront a critical question:  What if anything should we do about implicit bias in the courtroom? How concerned should we be that judges, advocates, and jurors are coming to the table with implicit biases that influence how they interpret evidence, understand the facts, and make judgment calls?  In what circumstances are these risks most acute? Are there practical ways to reduce the effects of implicit biases? To what extent can awareness of these biases mitigate against their impact? What other ‘debiasing’ strategies might work?  The 2nd annual symposium of PULSE: Program on Understanding Law, Science, and Evidence at UCLA School of Law takes up these pressing questions in an exciting one-day symposium.

Bringing together leading scientists (including Anthony Greenwald, the inventor of the Implicit Association Test), federal and state judges, judicial educators, and legal academics, the Symposium will explore the scientific state-of-the-art regarding implicit bias research and examine the various institutional responses to date.  The Symposium will also raise possibilities and complications, ranging from the theoretical to practical, from the legal to the scientific.  The ultimate goal of this one-day event is to identify areas of consensus and dissensus so as to identify concrete solutions and next steps for researchers, educators, lawmakers, and the judiciary.  Our central goals are to better understand this phenomenon and the potential risks it poses to justice, and to explore what practical and institutional steps can be taken to minimize implicit bias in the courtroom.

Please join us on March 3, 2011, at the UCLA School of Law for what promises to be an intellectually exciting day.

To attend the conference, you must register.

7.0 hours MCLE credit available for Registrants
UCLA School of Law is a State Bar of California approved MCLE provider

Profs. Jerry Kang & Jennifer Mnookin

Co-Directors, PULSE: Program on Understanding Law, Science, and Evidence

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