IAT for Dummies

Are you prejudiced?

It’s a simple question, but a tough one to truly answer.  I believed that I held no prejudice, no bias, no favoritism… but I was wrong.

The IAT – Implicit Association Test – is a very clever way to root out your long-held subconscious prejudices. Let me explain how it works… let’s say you’re given 2 categories, red and green, and you’re told to sort a bunch of objects into these categories (press the “red” button for tomato, “orange” for carrots, etc.).  You’ve been told to do this task as quickly as possible, and each response time between seeing the object and sorting it is being timed. Now, you’re told to sort blue and green items. Again, a simple test. Here comes the hard part – you’re given 2 categories, “red or green” and “blue or orange”. Think this might slow down your answers a bit? Every time you see an item (such as “ocean”) you need to associate it first with a color (blue) and then with a button (blue or orange). But it gets easier – the last part of the test asks you to sort “red and blue” and “green and orange”. Why is this easier than the previous part of the test? Because we have given associations for these colors already. You may even, before you start, label them mentally “primary colors” and “secondary colors”.  Because of this previous association, this part of the test is much easier and faster.

So what does this have to do with prejudice?  Well, the color idea is just a hypothetical example – you won’t find it among the tests online.  What you will find is a test about skin color, one that tests your association with ideas such as “good” and “bad” with “blacks” and “whites”.  Because we already hold mental shortcuts that associate these ideas in our unconscious mind (if not the conscious mind, too) we’ll find it easier to sort whites with good or bad and the same with blacks, too.  At the end of the test you’ll be told the results, about how strongly you associate with one race or the other (or in other words, how biased you are towards a race).

Fear not if it shows you to be a redneck racist (or biased against gender, age, or whatever your test was designed to find) – I took 2 of these tests and found that I am indeed racist, as well as homophobic.  After ‘flunking’ both tests, I decided I had enough self-discovery for one day.  But I would still recommend taking these tests.  Hold a mirror up to your subconscious mind and see what it looks like, because even if you don’t like what you see, you’ll never be able to fix it if you never become aware that it needs fixing.



About starcrashx

I love statistics. They drive my poker playing, my reasoning, and my research. As Penn Gillete said "Luck is probability taken personally". There's no such thing as luck... but I wish you positive chance. View all posts by starcrashx

One response to “IAT for Dummies

  • Jill Seeley

    Haha, apparently I am not at all racist and actually think whites have more weapons and that i slightly associate women with science fields…but i do slightly prefer young people to old…which i think makes sense…and no preference from fat to thin(makes sense because i am fat)…i did a few others, but with uninteresting results…anyway, thanks, that was fun.


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