Casuistry and Social Category Bias

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casuistry, social category bias, social group memberships, decision making, gender bias, racial bias, specious reasoning, employment decisions, college admission decisions

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This research explored cases where people are drawn to make judgments between individuals based on questionable criteria, in particular those individuals' social group memberships. We suggest that individuals engage in casuistry to mask biased decision making, by recruiting more acceptable criteria to justify such decisions. We present 6 studies that demonstrate how casuistry licenses people to judge on the basis of social category information but appear unbiased--to both others and themselves--while doing so. In 2 domains (employment and college admissions decisions), with 2 social categories (gender and race), and with 2 motivations (favoring an in-group or out-group), the present studies explored how participants justify decisions biased by social category information by arbitrarily inflating the relative value of their preferred candidates' qualifications over those of competitors.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Social Psychology, v. 87, issue 6, p. 817-831.