Unconscious inferenceZoe Drayson (University of California, Davis)
5200 N. Lake Road
Abstract: What is inference? Cognitive science operates with a notion of inference that includes unconscious cognitive processes (e.g. in learning and sensory processing) as well as conscious processes such as deliberative reasoning. Some philosophers have claimed that inference is an essentially epistemic process which is either justified or unjustified, depending on whether it is valid or not. If this is the case, then cognitive science is faced with a dilemma: either unconscious inferences are epistemically appraisable, and we can be held rationally responsible for unconscious processes over which we have no control; or unconscious inference is not genuine inference, and talk of unconscious inference is purely metaphorical. To avoid this dilemma, I explore various ways that we might make sense of inference as an essentially psychological process (conscious or unconscious), distinct from issues of justification. I use examples from the psychological and philosophical literature on implicit bias to highlight the problems that arise when we conflate psychological and epistemological notions of inference.
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