Prejudice: Source and Propagation

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.

Funded by Marie Skłodowska–Curie grant number 101063848