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Responsibility for implicit bias

Holroyd, Jules


Jules Holroyd


Philosophers who have written about implicit bias have claimed or implied that individuals are not responsible, and therefore not blameworthy, for their implicit biases, and that this is a function of the nature of implicit bias as implicit: below the radar of conscious reflection, out of the control of the deliberating agent, and not rationally revisable in the way many of our reflective beliefs are.

I argue that close attention to the findings of empirical psychology, and to the conditions for blameworthiness, does not support these claims. I suggest that the arguments for the claim that individuals are not liable for blame are invalid, and that there is some reason to suppose that individuals are, at least sometimes, liable to blame for the extent to which they are influenced in behaviour and judgment by implicit biases. I also argue against the claim that it is counter-productive to see bias as something for which individuals are blameworthy; rather, understanding implicit bias as something for which we are (sometimes) liable to blame could be constructive.


Holroyd, J. (2012). Responsibility for implicit bias. Journal of Social Philosophy, 43(3),

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Sep 1, 2012
Deposit Date Feb 25, 2013
Publicly Available Date Feb 25, 2013
Journal Journal of Social Philosophy
Print ISSN 0047-2786
Electronic ISSN 1467-9833
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 3
Keywords Implicit bias, responsibility, moral psychology
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information The definitive version is available at


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