Tuesday, 26 September 2017

How Different are Implicit Attitudes?

In this post, Sophie Stammers, Research Fellow on Project PERFECT at the University of Birmingham, introduces her article, “A Patchier Picture Still: Biases, Beliefs and Overlap on the Inferential Continuum” recently published Open Access at Philosophia.

‘Implicit’ is a designation that does a lot of work in the philosophy and cognitive science of thoughts. This follows many decades of research which demonstrates that human minds don’t always behave in ways that many of have expected them to. For instance, people (a) sometimes appear to be unaware of factors which influence their decisions; or (b) they often think or do things in spite of evidence to the contrary, or fail to think or do things in spite of evidence in favour; or (c) people think or do things automatically, without having deliberated first; or (d) they think or do things in spite of sincerely disavowing the thinking or doing of these things – or, all of (a)-(d) at once.

Many theorists have made sense of these results by proposing that the human mind is comprised of two systems: the explicit system handles the conscious, rational, deliberate and avowed processes that we expect to be engaged in, whilst the implicit system is behind the above findings (Kahneman 2011).

The success of our explanations and predictions of cognition depend on whether we’re right to posit a second system with distinctive characteristics. So too do our conceptions of what it is to be a person, and how we should think about interpersonal interactions involving these supposedly distinct systems. For instance, if the implicit system produces cognitions or behaviours that aren’t identified with the agent, then we shouldn’t judge interactions driven by it as agential. But if that’s not the case, then maybe those judgements are back on the table.

Characteristics (a)-(d) each deserve attention, but for now, let’s look just at (b). Some psychologists (e.g. Gawronski and Bodenhausen 2014) have explained evidence for (b) by proposing that attitudes are differently structured: explicit attitudes are structured propositions, processed in accordance with their semantic content, whilst implicit attitudes are mere associations between concepts and are processed regardless of information about their constituent concepts. These latter attitudes don’t respond to evidence.

Contra this view, Eric Mandelbaum (2016) summarizes a range of findings purporting to show that implicit attitudes are in fact sensitive to content, proposing they are structured propositions after all. But can this explain findings that many other implicit attitudes fail to respond appropriately to content?

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Sixth Biennial Conference of EPSA

The conference featured many contributed papers and symposia covering all subfields of the philosophy of science and brought together philosophers of science from Europe and overseas. The line-up of speakers was stellar indeed. Just to name a few, Sonja Amadae, Philip Kitcher, and Margaret Morrison gave keynote talks, and Helen Beebee offered a Women’s Caucus Lecture.

Project PERFECT also attended the meeting. Andrea Polonioli talked about cognitive biases in the search and assessment of scholarly literature and the possible value of using systematic reviews to limit the impact of such biases.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Epistemic Value of Emotions in Politics

Benedetta Romano is a doctoral candidate in the department of neurophilosophy and ethics of neuroscience at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich. Her research centers on the philosophy of emotions, focusing on various topics, such as the epistemic relevance of political emotions, the capacity of emotions to establish a narrative connection, and their function in analogical reasoning. Moreover, she is interested in the emotional dimension of different issues in applied ethics, such as torture and immigration.

Do the emotions that we experience towards political issues, characters and events, provide us with any valuable knowledge about them? My answer is a resounding yes, and in in my paper, I articulate it as follows. First, I address the epistemic part of the question. I argue that emotions can provide some knowledge about their objects, including political ones, by generating and modifying beliefs about them, and that such knowledge is evaluative in character. But is this knowledge epistemically reliable?

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Philosophy of Psychiatry WIP day at Lancaster University

This post is by Moujan Mirdamadi (Lancaster University), reporting from this year's annual Philosophy of Psychiatry Work in Progress day held at Lancaster University.

My name is Moujan Mirdamadi and I am a PhD student at Lancaster University. My research is on the phenomenology of depression and how experiences of depression vary cross culturally. In particular, I look at the similarities and differences in experiences of depression in Iran and the UK, and the significance of these variations.

Lancaster University hosts an annual Work in Progress conference in Philosophy of Psychiatry. The conference, rather than being concerned with presenting finished papers, aims to open a discussion in which peers and colleagues share their thoughts on an ongoing project or question to be answered. This year, I co-organised the event with Dr Rachel Cooper. The conference was held on June 2nd and covered a wide range of different topics in Philosophy of Psychiatry, with speakers from different institutions across the UK.

The issues we talked about included the way in which psychiatrists in the US perceive and respond to their critics, how metaphors can inform the understanding of psychoses, the distinction between mental and brain disorders, the line between personal autonomy and serious psychopathology, and the theoretical and philosophical problems RDoC (Research Domain Criteria) faces in finding new ways of studying mental disorders.