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Published on 10 Feb 2013
ARTICLE: Measuring Individual Differences in Implicit Cognition: The Implicit
Association Test by Greenwald, McGhee and Schwartz
An implicit association test (IAT) measures differential association of 2 target
concepts with an attribute
Using three experiments, the IAT was sensitive to a) near-universal evaluative
differences, (b) expected individuals differences in evaluative associations and (c)
consciously disavowed evaluative differences (Black + pleasant vs. White +
pleasant for self-described unprejudiced White subjects)
There is an expected difficulty of experiments with the reversed second
discrimination follows from the existence of strong associations of male names to
male faces and female names to female faces.
The assumed performance difference between the two versions of the combined
task indeed measures the strength of gender-based associations between the face
and name domains.
IAT will be potentially useful for diagnosing wide range of socially significant
associative structures can be able to measure evaluative associations that
underlie implicit attitudes
Measuring Implicit Attitudes
Implicit attitudes are manifested as actions or judgments that are under the control
of automatically activated evaluation without the performer’s awareness of that
The IAT procedure seeks to measure implicit attitudes by measuring their
underlying automatic evaluation.
One might appreciate the IAT’s potential value as a measure of socially
significant automatic associations by changing the thought experiment to one in
which the to-be-distinguished faces of the first task are Black or White (hello to
African American Faces and Goodbye to European Faces) and the second task is
to classify words as pleasant or unpleasant in meaning (hello to pleasant words
and goodbye to unpleasant)
o Black + Pleasant/ White + Unpleasant | if this is faster there is a preference
for black (stronger association with black + pleasant)
o Black + Unpleasant/White + Pleasant | if this is faster there is preference
for white (stronger association with black and unpleasant)
IAT is good at gauging actual preferences that may usually be hidden or masked
by self-presentation strategies
It is so fast, it can reveal attitudes and other automatic association even for
subjects who prefer not to express those attitudes
Design of the IAT
The IAT assess the association between the target-concept discrimination (race)
and an attitude dimension (pleasantness)
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The steps involved include
o Step 1: Initial Target-Concept Discrimination (Black/White)
o Step 2: Associated attribute discrimination (Pleasant/Unpleasant)
o Step 3: Initial Combined Task (Black-Pleasant/White-Unpleasant)
o Step 4: Reversed Target-Concept Discrimination (White/Black)
o Step 5: Reversed Combined Task (White-Pleasant/Black -Unpleasant)
Subject should find either Step 3 or 5 easier that the other.
Overview of Research
Because the present three experiments sought to assess the IAT's ability to
measure implicit attitudes, in each experiment the associated attribute dimension
was evaluation (pleasant vs. unpleasant) .4 Each experiment investigated attitudes
that were expected to be strong enough to be automatically activated.
Each experiment investigated attitudes that were expected to be strong enough to
be automatically activated.
Experiment 1 used target concepts for which the evaluative associations were
expected to be highly similar across persons.
Experiment 2 used two groups of subjects (Korean American and Japanese
American) to assess ethnic attitudes that were assumed to be mutually opposed,
stemming from the history of military subjugation of Korea by Japan in the first
half of the 20th century. The IAT method was expected to reveal these opposed
evaluations even for subjects who would deny, on self- report measures, any
antipathy toward the out-group.
Experiment 3 used the IAT to assess implicit attitudes of White subjects toward
White and Black racial categories. For these subjects we expected that the IAT
might reveal more attitudinal discrimination between White and Black categories
than would be revealed by explicit (self-report) measures of the same racial
Experiment 1
Experiment 1 used the IAT to assess implicit attitudes toward two pairs of target
attitude concepts for which subjects were expected to have relatively uniform
evaluative associations. A second purpose was to examine effects on IAT
measures of several procedural variables that are intrinsic to the IA T method
Task 1: Flower Names, Insect Names; Task 2: Musical Instruments, Weapons
o The two IAT measures obtained for each subject were analyzed in a
design that contained five procedural variables, listed here and described
more fully in the Procedure section: (a) order of the two target-concept
discriminations (flowers vs. insects first or instruments vs. weapons first),
(b) order of compatibility conditions within each IAT (evaluatively
compatible combination of discriminations before or after non- compatible
combination), (c) response key assigned to pleasant items (left or right),
(d) category set sizes for discriminations (5 items or 25 items per
category), and (e) interval between response and next item presentation for
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