The Department of Philosophy, as part of our weekly Speaker Series, is pleased to welcome Dr. Kathryn Plaisance (Waterloo Department of Knowledge Integration, cross-appointed to Philosophy)
Talk title: Psychological Safety for Whom: Integrating Feminist Epistemology with Research on Collaboration and Teamwork
Abstract: Feminist philosophers and philosophers of science have argued for years that scientific communities must include diverse perspectives if they want to create objective knowledge. Similarly, research in psychology provides empirical evidence that diverse teams have the potential to produce better and more innovative ideas. However, this potential is not always realized; evidence of the epistemic benefits of diverse teams is in fact quite mixed. If diversity is supposed to be such a boon, why don’t we see a more reliable correlation between diverse teams and successful outcomes?
In the first part of this talk, I demonstrate how a key concept called psychological safety can help us understand why this correlation isn’t as strong as we might expect and may be the key to improving and implementing philosophical theories. This is a useful example of how social science research can inform philosophical accounts, especially within feminist epistemology, social epistemology, and philosophy of science. In the second part of the talk, I offer a critical analysis of the research on psychological safety itself. One of the main problems is that the vast majority of research on psychological safety overlooks individual differences in perceptions of psychological safety in a team; like most research in psychology, it focuses on the group level (specifically viewing psychological safety as a team-level construct within larger communities or organizations). However, as I show, there is good reason to believe that the individuals who bring the most diverse perspectives are likely to experience the least amount of psychological safety, and work by feminist philosophers can explain why we would expect this to be the case. In short, when claims are made that a team or group is psychologically safe, it is imperative to ask, psychologically safe for whom?