The Truth is IN there
February 22, 2015 5:55 PM   Subscribe

The real you Your conscious self evaluation is often different from your underlying implicit reactions in this Psych' study at Harvard that tries to reveal ones prejudices and preconceived biases.

When you want to find out someone's self-esteem, the most obvious thing to do is ask them - How good or bad do you feel about yourself? The response is "explicit" -- the person's conscious assessment of themselves. But, the mind is complicated and self-report may not reflect all thoughts and feelings. The BIAT measures similar concepts "implicitly." By testing how quickly you could categorize good words with yourself versus bad words with yourself, we indirectly assess how much these concepts are linked in your mind. The idea is that the more strongly associated the two concepts are in memory, the more quickly you will be able to categorize words into those paired categories. For example, it's usually easier to categorize words when flowers and good are paired together than when flowers and bad are paired together. Previous research shows that our conscious reports and the associations revealed by the BIAT can be different.
posted by naight (17 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well either I truly am the non-discriminating, equal opportunity, tolerant, non-judge mental, color-blind person I believe myself to be or I am really good at sorting.
posted by sourwookie at 6:47 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


The truth's been in here for a while...double.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:50 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


[It's been ten years and it's a pretty interesting resource; I'm gonna let my hair down and say we can keep this one too.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:04 PM on February 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


[It's been ten years and it's a pretty interesting resource; I'm gonna let my hair down and say we can keep this one too.]

The implicit bias party is on!
posted by MoonOrb at 7:06 PM on February 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


The new tests are pretty interesting.
posted by surplus at 7:11 PM on February 22, 2015


I've done these before and should do more. Turns out I have a very slight bias in favor of women in the workplace. A man's place (non-exclusively) is in the kitchen!
(that's where the food is)
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:14 PM on February 22, 2015


I see since the last time I did this they now have country-specific tests. Last time I turned out not to be at all racist, but I think that's because I had a really hard time telling if people were black or white in the photos, as most black people I encounter here (Australia) are not African American, but most of the photos relied on typical looking African American faces.

This time they had an Aboriginal one, and I turn out to be moderately racist, which is unsurprising but sad. Although I do think that some of the negative words they included ("terrible" "evil" "failure") are ones I associate more easily with pictures of Aboriginal people specifically because I think the things that have been done to them here are "terrible", "evil" and that work to rectify this has so far been a "failure". But even that suggests that I am thinking of these pictures of people as representing a "thing" rather than individuals, which is not good.
posted by lollusc at 7:38 PM on February 22, 2015


But even that suggests that I am thinking of these pictures of people as representing a "thing" rather than individuals, which is not good.

Well, the tests are designed to elicit categorical thinking, I think, it's no failure of yours!

I was happy to find that I have a strong pro-cotton dress sock bias - which is great, some of these self-help books must be sticking - although probably worse explicit self-esteem, which is curious. So I'm lying to myself about how great I think I'm not? Why would I do that? How will I know if I really love me?
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:33 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I do wonder, though, how much the test is capturing personal, emotionally loaded biases vs. internalized cultural categories ("You are somewhat __ist " vs. "This much __ism is speaking through you"). Maybe that's a distinction without a difference, though.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:41 PM on February 22, 2015


I was very surprised to find that whether I took some of the tests as a USian, European or Israeli, I'm a lot less skin-color or indigenous-person racist than I think I am. Dunning-Krueger? Conversely, I'm slightly homophobic, specifically against other dykes. Which is truly strange - I've known I was queer since late childhood, and have been politically and socially active for queer equality since leaving high school.
posted by Dreidl at 9:52 PM on February 22, 2015


While the IAT is an interesting and important tool, I think it's an error to think of the results revealed in the IAT as being any more of the "real" you than the things you think and say overtly. For one thing, there are lots of real yous in different situations. For another, it is possible for your conscious self to override your implicit biases.

Then there's a question of how useful the measurements from the IAT are in predicting your behavior. I am not a social psychologist, but my understanding of the general consensus is that the effects are real but effect strength is generally low.

I hope that the way we as a society use this test isn't as an "are you racist?" test, which it's not, but as a method of demonstrating the sort of work it takes to make truly unbiased decisions. If we are interested in reducing discriminatory actions, it may be better to set up cognitive and procedural correctives to implicit bias than to try and get rid of it (which is quite hard almost by definition). And this goal is only hurt if we make people feel like implicit bias reveals something wrong with them.
posted by goingonit at 10:03 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I did the skin-color one and I'm having a hard time feeling like it has any real relevance--I am a pretty logical thinker and tried quite hard to exactly perform the test as instructed, and predictably (at least, based on my way of thinking) the result was "Your data suggest little to no automatic preference between Light Skin and Dark Skin."

However, I'm sure that I have racial biases that are not exposed by this. On the flip side apparently 70% of people have a slight to strong amount of preference toward light skin, according to this test, which is equally perplexing to me. I'm just not sure what to take from this.
posted by dubitable at 10:11 PM on February 22, 2015


Yeah, did the Gender-Career one, and unsurprisingly got a moderate preference for men in career and women in family. I'm sure it would show me as racist and all that other good stuff, too. Not all surprising given I grew up in the suburbs surrounded by housewives and rich white folk. I suppose, though, these tests will be useful to some people who will realize, shock! horror! maybe they really are racist, etc, and now know they have to do something about it, instead of continuing to live in their smug little liberal bubble where they couldn't possibly be!
posted by cthuljew at 11:08 PM on February 22, 2015


70% of people have a slight to strong amount of preference toward light skin, according to this test

That is, of course, 70% of people in the English-speaking world with access to a computer who were curious enough to click the link. Which would be a useful research statistic as long confined to research about that very specific group.
posted by glasseyes at 5:00 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I turnout to have no preference for the United States or the United Kingdom, even though I indicated a moderate preference for the United Kingdom. (Nothing against you Seppos, it's natural to prefer your own country!) I'm really not sure what this test is supposed to achieve. Maybe it works for some people, but for me, I don't think I was ever particularly thinking about whether one country was good or not. I just sorted as asked.
posted by salmacis at 7:31 AM on February 23, 2015


That is, of course, 70% of people in the English-speaking world with access to a computer who were curious enough to click the link. Which would be a useful research statistic as long confined to research about that very specific group.

Except for the entire literature of cross-cultural dark skin discrimination / colorism that is readily available to counter your claim that this study is of restricted generalizability just because.
posted by srboisvert at 10:12 AM on February 23, 2015


It was disheartening to learn that the group showing "little or no automatic preference between gender and family or career" represents only 17% of respondents (versus 76% male with career/female with family, 6.3% vice versa). In 2015 you'd hope for something a bit closer to 50%, if not 100%.
posted by rory at 4:38 AM on February 24, 2015


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