Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Lingering disparities, implicit bias, stereotype, bias behavior


We should note at the outset that this chapter is different from most others in this volume. Neither author is an expert of the law, legal proceedings, or the criminal justice system more generally. Instead, we are both psychological scientists who specialize in race and unintentional forms of bias. Our goal in this chapter is to review the extant work on implicit bias and interventions to change implicit bias. Though the work in this area is ever burgeoning, the evidence regarding the effectiveness of implicit bias interventions is rather mixed and the goals for the specific research efforts are quite varied. Our hope is to lay out the issues in ways that elucidate what this work can and cannot say about the causes of and remedies to disparities in legal outcomes. We hope that this review will prove helpful to those who choose to investigate the impact of biases, both unintentional and intentional, throughout the legal system.

To wit, in this chapter, we will review the evidence that, in general, is required to establish that implicit bias causes legal disparities. A great deal of the evidence regarding implicit bias and legal disparities is correlational and, of course, evidence of correlations between measured implicit bias and biased behavior is insufficient to establish cause. We will then conduct a selective review of implicit bias intervention research and argue that this research also does not speak directly to whether interventions to change implicit bias are effective ways to resolve social disparities. Indeed, we will argue that, based on the extant evidence, any intervention that is focused on directly changing scores on measures of implicit bias is unlikely to be effective at changing social disparities. Finally, we will review an approach that we believe is more effective: change people’s knowledge about how the structure of the social environment makes them complicit in the perpetuation of bias. We will illustrate this approach with an intervention that we have developed, the prejudice habit-breaking intervention.


A preprint version of a chapter written for the book: Enhancing Justice: Reducing Bias Redfield, S. E., & American Bar Association (Editors), 2017.