“If you are unprepared to encounter interpretations [of your results] that you might find objectionable, please do not continue” (Project Implicit ® – Take a Test). Every visitor to Project Implicit, a self-described “hands-on science museum exhibit” involving researchers from Harvard, University of Virginia, and University of Washington, encounters this disclaimer before being allowed to take one of Project Implicit's various Implicit Association Tests, or IATs (Welcome to Project Implicit – Information Website). The caveat is not unwarranted, for the IAT is designed to measure automatic attitudes of which the test-taker may be neither aware nor in control of. For example, between 75% and 80% of White and Asian Project Implicit participants exhibit some degree of implicit preference for White people over Black, although most report (with honesty presumed by virtue of anonymity) that they believe they do not have such a racial preference (Welcome to Project Implicit).
These and similar data suggest that there can be a marked disparity between the preferences that we believe ourselves to have (or that we claim to have), as indicated by self-reported measures of attitude, and our automatic associations between certain objects, whether physical items, concepts, or social groups, as revealed by implicit measures of attitude such as the IAT (Gregg, Seibt, & Banaji, 2006). Furthermore, not only do we possess biases that affect our automatic responses to stimuli despite not entering our consciousness, but also, these implicit biases are relatively resilient to change and require noticeable effort to counteract.
[...] example, gives participants two target categories, such as “Black OR good” and “White OR or “Black OR and “White OR and asks them to place nouns, adjectives, and/or images, presented one by one, in the appropriate category as quickly as possible (Project Implicit Differences among response times, or the time elapsed between the presentation of a stimulus and the sorting of the stimulus into the correct category, represent differences among the relative ease of associating certain types of stimuli with certain characteristics (Gregg et al. [...]
[...] Other experiments conducted in the realm of automatic responses, particularly fMRI investigations, have demonstrated that attempts at manipulation of implicit attitudes not only generally fail, but they also require a visible amount of cognitive effort that temporarily inhibits subsequent cognitive processes. Cunningham, Johnson, Raye, Gatenby, Gore, and Banaji (2003) found that the fMRIs of White research subjects differed when they were subliminally shown images of Black faces versus when they were subliminally shown images of White faces. The subliminal images of Black faces incited more activity in the amygdala, an area of the brain involved in anxiety and conditioned fear (Cunningham et al. [...]
[...] The knowledge of these characteristics of our unconscious biases, such as those induced by culture/society, can only serve to help us in our search for equality and an end to racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, etc., a search which we now understand must involve changing implicit attitudes, despite the difficulty, as well as conscious ones. Bibliography Bar-Anan Nosek BA, Vianello M The sorting paired features task: A measure of association strengths. Experimental Psychology 56:329-343 Cunningham WA, Johnson MK, Raye CL, Gatenby JC, Gore JC, Banaji MR Dissociated conscious and unconscious evaluations of social groups: An fMRI investigation. [...]
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