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Prejudice: Source and propagation

Project description

An alternative approach to understanding the propagation of prejudice

Prejudice is often expressed through generalisations (or simply, generics) that ascribe overarching properties to groups. To understand the spread of such attitudes, we must learn more about the linguistic devices through which prejudice is expressed. The EU-funded PSP project will develop an alternative analysis to the standard one of taking generics to express claims about the world. The novel approach entails viewing generalisations as analogous to exclamations like ‘Ouch!’ – that is, they primarily express a speaker’s mental state rather than describe the world. The project therefore aims to specify the expressivist view of generics and show how expressivism avoids problems that arise in the standard view, and to explain the harm caused by discriminatory generics.


To understand the propagation of prejudice, we need to understand the linguistic devices through which it is expressed. Prejudicial attitudes can be expressed through generic generalisations (or simply generics) like ‘Women are illogical’, which ascribe properties (e.g. being illogical) to groups (e.g. women). The standard analysis takes generics to express claims about the world. This project will develop a novel alternative analysis on which generic generalisations are analogous to exclamations like ‘Ouch!’, in that they function primarily express the speaker’s mental states rather than describing the world. In addition to advancing our understanding of the propagation of prejudice, this project will experimentally assess the novel Generic Bootstrapping Hypothesis, according to which prejudice has a source in our disposition to store evidence in generic form.

Main Research Objectives:
1. Specify the expressivst view of generics and show how expressivism avoids problems that arise for the standard view.
3. Explain the harm caused by discriminatory generics.

Research output:
1. Two research papers
2. A paper communicating research findings to the non-academic public
3. An experiment assessing the impact of generics about social kinds
4. A conference on issues related to the project
5. A special issue of a journal based on the workshop

Training Objectives:
1. Train the researcher in experimental techniques
2. Extend the researcher's competencies to experimental philosophy and cognitive science
3. Transfer the researcher’s knowledge of context and underdetermination to the host
4. Increase collaboration and research opportunities for the host and researcher by bringing members of the researcher's
network to host
5. Increase public awareness of debates and research concerning generics



Net EU contribution
€ 206 887,68
Paradisgatan 5c
22100 Lund

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Södra Sverige Sydsverige Skåne län
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
No data