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Created: June 20, 2004
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Latest Update: June 20, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site Harvard's Implicit Association Test
While wandering through the Tolerance.org materials I discovered a link to Harvard's Implicit Association Test. I couldn't resist. A test to take! And it was fun and informative. It's a test based on speed and association between objects. It measures attitudes toward dichotomies. My test was on Black Americans and White Americans.

Why on earth should we want to measure our own attitudes toward dichotomies when we already know how we feel about them? Well, because sometimes we are wrong about what we think. And as Mathilda White Riley pointed out long ago in a methods text, what we think about something does not measure what we will do about it. Responding to a stimulus is doing something. It may point out a discrepancy between what we say and what we do. Not unusual, actually.

This is a test. You may screw up. That is permitted. Don't take the test results to be the pronouncement of God. They are meant to be fun, and to provide feedback. To make you alert to the situation of a given dichotomy. Relax and have fun with the test, and pay attention to what the researchers say about interpreting the results. Interpretation is complex, and depends on many factors, including whether you understand the instructions.

But the test is also knowledge. It's feedback that may be wrong or right, as most truth in our world. Consider it, be alert to many perspectives, and then get on with your life. DO NOT take the test if it will upset you. It's for your pleasure. It is not meant as TORTURE. jeanne

Here's what the researchers explain about the results and their interpretation:

Implicit Association Test

"11. When will implicit attitudes agree with explicit attitudes?"

"Answer: There are two reasons why direct (explicit) and indirect (implicit) attitudes may not be the same. The simpler explanation is that a person may be unwilling to accurately report some attitude. For example, if a professor asks a student "Do you like soap operas?" a student who is fully aware of spending two hours each day watching soap operas may nevertheless say "no" because of being embarrassed (unwilling) to reveal this fondness. The second explanation for explicit-implicit disagreement is that a person may be unable to accurately report an attitude. For example, if asked "Do you like Turks?" many Germans will respond "yes" because they regard themselves as unprejudiced. However, an IAT may reveal that these same Germans have automatic negative associations toward Turks. (This IAT result has been demonstrated quite clearly in Germany.) Germans who show such a response are unaware of their implicit negativity and are therefore unable to report it explicitly. The unwilling-unable distinction is like the difference between hiding something from others and something being hidden from you. So, implicit and explicit attitude measures should agree when people are both aware of and willing to report their automatic associations. For example, in the experiment that measures attitudes toward flowers and insects, respondents are both able and willing to report these attitudes. In that experiment, implicit and explicit measures generally reveal the same attitudes. Likewise, college students are able and willing to report whether they like science or arts. In such a case also, implicit and explicit attitudes reveal the same preferences."

"12. What can I do about an automatic preference that I would rather not have?"

"Answer: First, bear in mind that these website IAT tests are not perfectly accurate. You may want to repeat the test before drawing even a tentative conclusion of this sort. On the other hand, it is very possible to possess an automatic preference that you would rather not have (and the researchers who developed this test are convinced that they, too, fall into this category). One solution is to seek experiences that could undo or reverse the patterns of experience that could have created the unwanted preference. But this is not always easy to do. A more practical alternative may be to remain alert to the existence of the undesired preference, recognizing that it may intrude in unwanted fashion into your judgments and actions. Additionally, you may decide to embark on consciously planned actions that can compensate for known unconscious preferences and beliefs."



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