“My portfolio in Senator Wyden’s office focuses on technology and bias, such as algorithmic bias,” he says in reference to the development of an algorithm that was part of the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safety Transitioning Every Person Act of Congress (known as the First Step Act). The algorithm Rivera is looking at, known as PATTERN, assesses risk for reoffending among people who are in the federal prison system. According to Rivera, this algorithm has flaws that go back to the biased data that has been collected about minorities over the years.

“The federal prison system is trying to make decisions that are fair to everybody,” he says. “The problem is that when you rely on algorithms like PATTERN then you rely on a history of bias in the criminal justice system.”

And, that’s just one of his projects. As an experimental social psychologist, Rivera spends most of his time studying implicit social cognition. In this, he often uses the Implicit Association Test or IAT.

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