Uncovering Latent Biases in Text: Method and Application to Peer Review


  • Emaad Manzoor Carnegie Mellon University
  • Nihar B. Shah Carnegie Mellon University




AI for Conference Organization and Delivery (AICOD), Ethics -- Bias, Fairness, Transparency & Privac, Causality


Quantifying systematic disparities in numerical quantities such as employment rates and wages between population subgroups provides compelling evidence for the existence of societal biases. However, biases in the text written for members of different subgroups (such as in recommendation letters for male and non-male candidates), though widely reported anecdotally, remain challenging to quantify. In this work, we introduce a novel framework to quantify bias in text caused by the visibility of subgroup membership indicators. We develop a nonparametric estimation and inference procedure to estimate this bias. We then formalize an identification strategy to causally link the estimated bias to the visibility of subgroup membership indicators, provided observations from time periods both before and after an identity-hiding policy change. We identify an application wherein “ground truth” bias can be inferred to evaluate our framework, instead of relying on synthetic or secondary data. Specifically, we apply our framework to quantify biases in the text of peer reviews from a reputed machine-learning conference before and after the conference adopted a double-blind reviewing policy. We show evidence of biases in the review ratings that serves as “ground truth”, and show that our proposed framework accurately detects the presence (and absence) of these biases from the review text without having access to the review ratings.




How to Cite

Manzoor, E., & Shah, N. B. (2021). Uncovering Latent Biases in Text: Method and Application to Peer Review. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 35(6), 4767-4775. https://doi.org/10.1609/aaai.v35i6.16608



AAAI Technical Track Focus Area on AI for Conference Organization and Delivery