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The Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT)

The Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT)

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The Harvard IAT


Harvard University

You’re not biased, right? This free online test might tell you otherwise, the implicit association test or IAT can reveal racial and gender biases You might not even know you have. Heres how it works. The test asked you to rapidly group a series of images and words, for instance, in one section of the race IAT, you press a certain key. 

Whenever you see a white faced or a positive word, you press another key If its a black face or a negative word and you have to react as fast as you can. In another section, the associations are reversed. White faces. Go with negative words while black faces are grouped with positive words. It turns out that 70% of test-takers white and non-white respond more slowly when grouping black faces with positive words, the test call this an automatic preference for white people. Other IAT test on subjects, like gender. And disability have also found pervasive automatic associations that mirror social stereotypes.


Your IAT results May well surprise you. Indeed most test-takers would answer on a questionnaire that white and black people are equal and men and women should have equal pay and many of them honestly think. So were not talking about extremist here but people like you and me. So what might be IAT reveal about us? We may grow in our life to recognize that we don’t endorse a particular stereotype about a group. But that doesn’t mean that we lose that memory for what the culture has taught us. The Stereotype to be, this is a spoiler alert. But you know, you may know that Santa Claus is not real, but that doesnt prevent you from having a full narrative about who that person is and looks like and what he does and stereotypes are often the same way by function of Simply seeing someone from the group. 

One of the things we do unconsciously and automatically is pull out of memory. All the information we have about the group. And these memories shape what we perceive without us realizing it, implicit biases can be hidden in our everyday actions when we open our inboxes and see a lot of emails. Whose message do we end up replying to. Do we laugh when we hear a racist or sexist joke? 

When we vote, what makes us think One candidate is more competent research shows implicit biases can cause major inequalities on a collective scale. So what can we do to reduce our implicit biases? First hear some bad news, there is widespread belief that implicit biases are so stable that they are virtually totally unchangeable in a lot of experiments done. Trying to change and plus it biases, we find what I call a lastic changes which means you got to change that. You can measure 15 minutes later but come back the next day and see if its changed. Now its back to what it was before and even if we do change of us are biased, we had some other research suggesting that its linked to any individual behavior is very weak. 

These are kind of associations that. Presumably are built up over a lifetime of experience. But still, we want to control our biases and act moreFairly. Professor Greenwald has worked with Washington state judges to address implicit bias in court and he says, intentionally resisting these biases Could actually backfire. if you make the attempt to control, implicit bias, in real-time, what you can say, is have a higher bar for making a particular judgment. 

You actually dont know if you are operating more validly or accurately, when you just  sub consciously, imposed a bias in the reverse Direction. If conscious control, might not work. Should we just be resigned to our implicit biases and do nothing? Youre best bet is changing procedures and practices that are closely aligned with the issue that youre worried about. So that the opportunity to act on your bias never stop.

 The first step is to give yourself an audit. Im really encouraged by what I call counting looking at the data seeing if this priorities are occurring. And you can only check this by keeping track of it Over time. once we identify situations prone to producing bias. We can take steps to Blind decision-makers to the identity of those affected by their decisions. in situations like job interviews, where decision-makers will learn about demographic information, Professor lai recommends another strategy. When we dont pre commit ourselves to decision-making criteria. 

Were more likely to act in line with potentially, are opposed to biases. So what you might want to do is instead give yourself to exercise ahead of time to figure out what are the criteria that actually important rather than kind of deciding after the fact These are things we can all do. We can count our decisions in our professional and private lives and take action to limit the influence of biased. One thing is clear, merely wanting to change is not enough.

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