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When perception bypasses truth: attention, bias, and the structure of social stereotypes

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Title
When perception bypasses truth: attention, bias, and the structure of social stereotypes
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Baker
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Anna Austin
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1991-
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Anna Austin Baker
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author
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Egan
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Andrew
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Andrew Egan
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Advisory Committee
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chair
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Schellenberg
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Susanna
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Susanna Schellenberg
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Advisory Committee
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Guerrero
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Alex
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Alex Guerrero
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Advisory Committee
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internal member
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Mandelbaum
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Eric
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Eric Mandelbaum
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Advisory Committee
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outside member
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Firestone
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Chaz
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Chaz Firestone
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Advisory Committee
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Rutgers University
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School of Graduate Studies
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theses
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2019
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2019-10
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2019
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English
Abstract (type = abstract)
Is perception accurate? How wide spread is inaccuracy in perception and under what conditions do our perceptual capacities undermine our ability to accurately perceive? This dissertation examines two examples of perceptual inaccuracy: attention altering perceptual phenomenology (making attended to stimuli appear bigger, brighter, and higher in spatial frequency) and social stereotypes impairing low-level perceptual judgments. There is a prevailing assumption in philosophy and cognitive science that perception is--and functions to be--truth oriented. However, I herein argue that our perceptual faculties often fail to deliver truth. Moreover, understanding how our cognitive architecture gives rise to systematic perceptual inaccuracy can provide us with insight into just how much our experience of the world is shaped by our social categories and computational limitations.
In chapters 1 and 2, I consider the way social stereotypes shape perceptual judgments. We know social stereotypes influence many of our judgments. Women, for example, are deemed less likely to succeed than men in especially intellectually demanding tasks (Bian et al. 2018). This suggests that higher-order judgments about qualities like 'brilliance' or 'genius' can be shaped by our gender stereotypes. But might stereotypes be so cognitively entrenched that they could affect more basic perceptual judgments as well? For example, would harboring the stereotype 'doctors are men' make it more difficult to visually process a female doctor? These chapters empirically and philosophically consider this question and its larger social ramifications. I argue that my empirical work with Jorge Morales and Chaz Firestone suggests that stereotyping has a considerably wider scope of causal influence than has been appreciated in the philosophical and psychological literature, which can shed light of larger patterns of discrimination.
In chapter 3, I take on another, more basic, facet of perceptual inaccuracy--the phenomenological effects of voluntary and involuntary attention. I argue that much of the empirical evidence supports the interpretation that attention inaccurately distorts many aspects of our perceptual experience. On the face of it, these findings appear to be difficult to reconcile with the view that perception functions to furnish us with accurate representations of the world. However, rather than claim that our perceptual systems are constantly in the process of malfunctioning, I argue that perception instead functions to guide action and that this can satisfactorily explain many examples of perceptual inaccuracy.
Subject (authority = RUETD)
Topic
Philosophy
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
Philosophy of mind
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
Perception
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Rutgers University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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ETD_10079
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application/pdf
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1 online resource (viii, 70 pages) : illustrations
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Ph.D.
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Includes bibliographical references
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School of Graduate Studies Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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rucore10001600001
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Identifier (type = doi)
doi:10.7282/t3-hg8a-0b49
Genre (authority = ExL-Esploro)
ETD doctoral
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The author owns the copyright to this work.
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Baker
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Anna
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2019-06-13 16:03:18
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Anna Baker
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Rutgers University. School of Graduate Studies
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I hereby grant to the Rutgers University Libraries and to my school the non-exclusive right to archive, reproduce and distribute my thesis or dissertation, in whole or in part, and/or my abstract, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, subject to the release date subsequently stipulated in this submittal form and approved by my school. I represent and stipulate that the thesis or dissertation and its abstract are my original work, that they do not infringe or violate any rights of others, and that I make these grants as the sole owner of the rights to my thesis or dissertation and its abstract. I represent that I have obtained written permissions, when necessary, from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis or dissertation and will supply copies of such upon request by my school. I acknowledge that RU ETD and my school will not distribute my thesis or dissertation or its abstract if, in their reasonable judgment, they believe all such rights have not been secured. I acknowledge that I retain ownership rights to the copyright of my work. I also retain the right to use all or part of this thesis or dissertation in future works, such as articles or books.
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