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How should our conception of agency accommodate the influence of implicit cognition on action?

Alderson, Naomi Clare; (2019) How should our conception of agency accommodate the influence of implicit cognition on action? Masters thesis (M.Phil.Stud), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Recent study in the field of empirical psychology has revealed the subtle ways in which our actions are influenced by implicit cognition – cognition that typically operates beyond awareness and beyond direct deliberative control. For instance, implicit racial biases make some agents more likely to shoot unarmed black men than unarmed white men in simulations when they are forced to decide quickly (Payne, 2006). Behavioural effects like these have been found even in participants with strong explicit commitments to equality (Monteith, et al., 2001) and by participants making a concerted effort to respond in an unbiased way (Payne, 2006), suggesting that implicit cognition can lead agents to act in ways that they would not choose to. This plausibly suggests that the influence of implicit cognition ought not to be considered agential. However, other studies reveal ways that implicit cognition can help an agent to act as she would choose to, such as the way that it can enable goal-directed habitual action (Snow, 2006) and inhibit the influence of unwanted bias in some agents with egalitarian goals (Moskowitz & Li, 2011). Where implicit cognition seems to help agents achieve their goals and act upon their values, it seems more plausible to think that it is an agential influence on behaviour. This dissertation asks how our theory of agency should accommodate the influence of implicit cognition on behaviour in light of these findings, aiming to determine when – if at all – its influence should be considered part of the kind of agency distinctive of persons.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil.Stud
Title: How should our conception of agency accommodate the influence of implicit cognition on action?
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms.
Keywords: Agency, implicit bias, implicit cognition, philosophy of action
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10087096
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