Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Responsibility for Implicit Bias

Natalia Washington
I am a graduate student in the Philosophy department at Purdue University. My research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy of mind, cognitive science, moral psychology, and scientific psychiatry—and especially in externalist viewpoints on these subjects.

In a forthcoming paper with Dan Kelly, we defend a kind of social externalism about moral responsibility in the case of implicit bias, a particular kind of “imperfect cognition.” For those who aren’t familiar, implicit biases are unconscious and automatic negative evaluative tendencies about people based on their membership in a stigmatized social group—for example, on gender, sexual orientation, race, age, or weight. Because implicit biases operate without our conscious awareness, one might worry about the prospects for holding individuals responsible for their behaviors when they are influenced by biases, as mounting evidence suggests.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Getting (more or less) Rational Beliefs from Fiction

Greg is Professor of Philosophy at Nottingham (moving to York in September); Anna is doing her PhD with him. 

Greg Currie
We both work on the topics of fiction and imagination, and recently have become interested in the question of how our imaginative engagement with fictions influences our attitudes towards the real world – notably, our real-world beliefs. When we read Anna Karenina and become engrossed in the story of her life, what effects – if any – does this have on what we think, feel, desire about our own lives? Do we acquire new beliefs (or worries, or hopes...) about the real nature of love, or the evils of social conformity? To the extent to which we do that, how does it happen, and how rational is it?
Anna Ichino
These are in important respects empirical questions. In order to answer them we are looking at the psychological work in this area.

We have started by considering a growing body of studies that go under the heading of ‘Transportation studies’ (see Green & Brock 2000), which suggest that ‘being transported into a story-world’ tends to change readers’ attitudes in ways that reflect the views expressed, explicitly or implicitly, by the story in question. A story where a young girl is stabbed to death by an unrestrained psychiatric patient, even if explicitly labeled as fiction, seems to influence readers’ judgments about real levels of violence and injustice in the world. Psychologists in this field describe such attitudinal changes in terms of belief changes – and ones of a peculiarly irrational kind, which they call ‘narrative persuasion’. In this they are influenced by the work of Dan Gilbert, who argued for a ‘Spinozistic’ account of belief acquisition according to which we automatically believe everything we hear, while disbelieving means ridding ourselves of a belief already acquired: something requiring effort that, for various reasons, is not always forthcoming. Engagement with a fiction can be one of such reasons: stories absorb the readers’ attention, lowering their epistemic vigilance and preventing them from activating the appropriate processes of belief rejection. Readers’ epistemic vigilance might well be lowered also by the fact that they take the purpose of the narrator to be mere entertainment, rather than persuasion, so they’re even less motivated to assume a critical stance. This would explain why, according to some studies, readers tend to be even more influenced by fictional than by non-fictional stories (Prentice & Gerrig 1999).

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Psychotic Phenotypes and Autonomous Action

Alessandro Blasimme 
& Marco Canevelli

The relationship between mental capacities and autonomy has long been a matter of dispute, but we can surmise that clinical judgments about one’s mental capacities may incorporate or support considerations about patients’ autonomy as well as value judgments bearing on the choice of different therapeutic options, on how and to which degree a patient should be involved in therapeutic decisions and, finally, on the role of caregivers. This has important consequences for patients affected by dementia.

Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) are defined as “a heterogeneous set of psychological reactions, psychiatric symptoms and anomalous behaviours that appear in patients with dementia, of any etiology” (Finkel et al. 1996).

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Egocentric Representation: a Positive Dimension to Abnormal Self-Experience in Schizophrenia?

Gregory Yates
In schizophrenia, the basic experience of existing as a “self” – as a subject whose thoughts, beliefs and actions coincide with what is regarded to be “self” – is disturbed. This has been hypothesised as the distinct phenotypic core of schizophrenia (Sass and Parnas, 2003; Parnas et al., 2005) and the central psychopathological trait marker of psychotic vulnerability (Nelson et al., 2008; Parnas et al., 2005) 'The clinical symptoms come and go,' describes one schizophrenia patient, 'but this nothingness of self is permanently there.' (Kean, 2009)

Anomalous self-experiences (ASEs) provide much of the material for delusional beliefs formed in acute schizophrenia (Stanghellini, 2012). In line with my last post on this blog, I would like to consider whether ASEs might also provide a ‘secondary gain’ or epistemic benefit (Graham, 2013). I will examine one delusion frequently reported by schizophrenia patients, and highly suggestive of an ASE: the delusion of reference.