Implicit-association test

The implicit-association test (IAT) is a measure within social psychology designed to detect the strength of a person's subconscious association between mental representations of objects (concepts) in memory. It is commonly applied to assess implicit stereotypes held by test subjects, such as unconsciously associating stereotypically black names with words consistent with black stereotypes.[1] The test's format is highly versatile, and has been used to investigate biases in racial groups, gender, sexuality, age, and religion, as well as assessing self-esteem.

The IAT was introduced in the scientific literature in 1998 by Anthony Greenwald, Debbie McGhee, and Jordan Schwartz.[1] The IAT is now widely used in social psychology research and, to some extent, in clinical, cognitive, and developmental psychology research. The IAT is the subject of much controversy regarding validity, reliability, and whether test results are an accurate representation of implicit bias.

History

Implicit cognition and measurement

In 1995, social psychology researchers Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji asserted that the idea of implicit and explicit memory can apply to social constructs as well.[2] If memories that are not accessible to awareness can influence our actions, associations can also influence our attitudes and behavior. Thus, measures that tap into individual differences in associations of concepts should be developed. This would allow researchers to understand attitudes that cannot be measured through explicit self-report methods due to lack of awareness or social-desirability bias.[3] In essence,the purpose of the IAT was to reliably assess individual differences in a manner producing large effect sizes.[4] The first IAT article was published three years later in 1998.[5]

Since its original publication date, the seminal IAT article has been cited over 4,000 times,[6] making it one of the most influential psychological developments over the past couple of decades.[7] Furthermore, several variations in IAT procedure have been introduced to address test limitations,[7] while numerous applications of the IAT were also developed, including versions investigating bias against obesity, suicide risk, romantic attachment, attitudes regarding sexuality, and political preferences, among others.[8] Finally, as is characteristic of any psychological instrumentation, discussion and debate of the IAT's reliability and validity has continued since its introduction, particularly because these factors vary between different variations of the test.[7]