The extent of Implicit Bias: An analysis of the research on Implicit Biases and a discussion of the ethical implications of this research with a special emphasis on the criminal justice system

Kristian Kragh

Studenteropgave: Speciale


This thesis investigates the research on implicit biases as well as implicit bias training in order to discuss what actions we are morally obligated to take, especially within the context of the criminal justice system, given the current status of this research. The paper starts out with a brief introduction that demonstrates why this is a topic that merits urgent consideration.
Chapter I is split up into two parts. The first part goes into several studies on implicit biases that share a special connection to the criminal justice system. These studies investigates topics like the role of perceived trustworthiness in criminal courts as well as anchoring effects that arbitrarily influences the sentencing length of legal professionals. The second part focuses on the type of biases measured by the Implicit Association Test in order to investigate the tests scientific validity. The second half of this part demonstrates the tests struggle with achieving scientific consensus about what it is that it exactly measures, as well as its problems with predictive validity.
Chapter II takes a closer look on two studies aimed at lowering or removing the implicit biases measured by the Implicit Association Test. It then looks at how this research has been applied by comparing the policies and strategies on dealing with implicit biases by two major companies; Starbucks and Google.
Chapter III discusses the ethical implications of the research that was presented and analysed in chapter I and II, as well as the attempts to address implicit bias by Starbucks and Google. The first part of the discussion is concentrated about the implications in relation to the Criminal Justice System, and considers how proponents of utilitarianism and retributivism ought to act based on the research. The second part of the discussion focuses on the ethical implications to society outside of the criminal justice system.
In the end, the thesis concludes that the research on perceived trustworthiness as well as anchoring effects warrants preliminary changes to the Criminal Justice System. Specifically in regards to the rules about mugshot use, the neutralization of unwanted facial features, and the implementation of controlled anchors. Furthermore, the thesis concludes that the lack of scientific consensus on what the Implicit Association Test measures, as well as its problems of achieving sufficient predictive validity, makes it inadvisable to introduce it into the Criminal Justice System at the time being. The same conclusion is reached in regards to whether or not we ought to invest massively into anti-implicit bias training. It is then suggested that we instead ought to invest the money spent on this training, into quality of life improving initiatives that creates more counter-stereotypical examples.
In addition to this, the thesis ends up with the recommendation that we ought to make structural changes that removes some of the potential ‘triggers’ of implicit or explicit biases.

UddannelserFilosofi og Videnskabsteori, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato3 dec. 2018
Antal sider52
VejledereJesper Ryberg


  • Implicit
  • Bias
  • Implicit Bias
  • criminal justice system
  • ethics
  • morality
  • anchoring
  • trustworthiness
  • death sentence
  • life in prison
  • IAT
  • Implicit Association Test
  • Blindspot
  • Domstolens Blinde Øje
  • Predictive Validity
  • Starbucks
  • Google
  • anti-implicit bias training
  • social justice
  • unconscious bias
  • perceived trustworthiness