FAQs

How does the test work?
1. Could the result be a function of the order in which I did the two parts?
2. How does the IAT measure implicit attitudes?
3. What does it mean if I get a test result that I don't believe describes me or, if I take the same test twice, I get different results each time?
4. The red Xs forced me to give responses I did not consider proper. Does that mean the test is no good for me?
5. Where can I find technical discussion of implicit social cognition and the IAT?

Specific tests
6. Young people show an automatic preference for Young. Do older people show an automatic preference for Old?
7. Why are faces being used to represent the groups White and Black?
8. Is the common preference for White over Black in the Black-White attitude IAT a simple 'ingroup' preference?
9. Do Black participants show a preference for Black over White on the race attitude IAT?
10. Do young children show automatic preference for White over Black

Interpretation
11. What does it mean that my IAT score is labeled 'slight', 'moderate', or 'strong'?
12. My feedback was that 'there were too many errors to determine a result.' Does this mean I have no automatic preference or association?
13. When will implicit attitudes agree with explicit attitudes?
14. What can I do about an automatic preference that I would rather not have?
15. Might a result indicating preference for one group over another be due to differences in familiarity with the groups?
16. If my Black-White attitude IAT shows automatic White preference, does that mean that I'm prejudiced?
17. Do automatic racial or ethnic preferences occur in other countries, in regard to other groups?
18. Why do many Americans show automatic preference for White over Black?

Definitions
19. What is an 'implicit' attitude?
20. What is an 'implicit' stereotype?
21. What are 'explicit' attitudes or beliefs?
22. What is the difference between 'implicit' and 'automatic'?
23. What is the difference between 'preference' or 'attitude' and 'association'?

Note: If you experienced any technical difficulties, please view solutions to common problems, or report the nature of your difficulties. For additional questions, or concerns, please email implicit@wjh.harvard.edu.

  1. Could the result be a function of the order in which I did the two parts? I had to group one category together with pleasant words first. I then found it difficult when I later had to group the other category with pleasant words.

    Answer: The order in which tests are administered does make a difference to the overall result in some tests. However, the difference is small and recent changes to the test have sharply reduced the influence of order. Because of this order effect, the orders used for IATs presented on this website are assigned at random. For any data we present, we are careful to be sure that half the test-takers got the A then B order and the other half got the B then A order. With the revised task design, the order has only a minimal influence on task performance. If you want to check whether the order made a difference for you, you can take the test again and complete it if you get assigned to the reverse order. If you do take the test twice in different orders and get different outcomes, the best estimate of your result is intermediate between the two. For more information about the order effect, see this paper (Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, in press).

  2. How does the IAT measure implicit attitudes?

    Answer: The IAT asks you to pair two concepts (e.g., young and good, or elderly and good). The more closely associated the two concepts are, the easier it is to respond to them as a single unit. So, if young and good are strongly associated, it should be easier to respond faster when you are asked to give the same response (i.e. the 'E' or 'I' key) to these two. If elderly and good are not so strongly associated, it should be harder to respond fast when they are paired. This gives a measure of how strongly associated the two types of concepts are. The more associated, the more rapidly you should be able to respond. The IAT is one method for measuring implicit or automatic attitudes and is featured on this website. There are other methods, using different procedures, that have been investigated in laboratory studies.

  3. What does it mean if I get a test result that I don't believe describes me or, if I take the same test twice, I get different results each time.

    Answer: You may be giving the test more credit than it deserves! These tests are not perfectly accurate by any definition of accuracy. Normally, outcomes will change at least slightly from one taking to another. You may discover this if you repeat any of the tests. We encourage repeating any test for which the outcome surprises you. If the outcome repeats, the result is definitely more trustworthy than is the first result alone. If the outcome varies, it is best to average the different results. However, if the outcome varies widely from one taking to another (something that is unusual) we suggest that you just regard the set of results as 'inconclusive'. Besides normal variation in the reliability of assessment, the IAT is also known to be malleable based on differences in the social setting and recent experience. These factors will influence the consistency of measurement across occasions. For more information about reliability see Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, in press. For more information about malleability of implicit attitudes and stereotypes see Blair, 2001.

  4. The red Xs forced me to give responses I did not consider proper. Does that mean the test is no good for me?

    Answer: The instructions page for each IAT lists the words, names, and/or types of pictures that appear in that test. The page also indicates the category to which each of those words belongs (For example, the page might say "good words = wonderful, beautiful, happy, joy, smile.") However, it is sometimes difficult to clearly view the pictures or to remember which category each word or name belongs to once the test begins. In laboratory versions we can make sure that each person understands the categories used in the test and the words, faces, or names that define each category. For web versions of these tests selected items that most people would agree on their category membership, and should work for as many people as possible. If the categories that you believe best represent the IAT's words, names, or faces are treated by the applet as wrong (red X) for more than a few items, then that test will indeed not be adequate or accurate for you. We hope that you may have found something useful in the experience nevertheless.

  5. Where can I find technical discussion of implicit social cognition and the IAT?

    Answer: Papers from the laboratories of the principal investigators are available at http://projectimplicit.net/ and at the researcher’s personal pages. For starters, an overview of the topic of 'implicit social cognition' is available in an article by Greenwald & Banaji in Psychological Review, (1995), and in a second paper also appearing in Psychological Review (2002). The first publication of the IAT was in an article by Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, (1998). A more recent paper by Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji (in press) summarizes what is known about the reliability and validity of the IAT. Anthony Greenwald’s website also has information on the validity of the IAT (http://faculty.washington.edu/agg/iat_validity.htm. To learn about how to make an IAT and criticisms of the IAT see Lane, K. A., Banaji, M. R., Nosek, B. A., & Greenwald, A. G. (2007).

  6. Young people show an automatic preference for Young. Do older people show an automatic preference for Old?

    Answer: The finding is that older people do not, on average, show an automatic preference for their own group, the elderly. Remarkably, the preference for Young is just as strong in those over-60 age group as it is among 20-year-olds. Why might this be? Perhaps it is because being old is what social scientists call a 'stigmatized' group. Also, the concept ‘old’ is associated with other concepts that tend to be seen as negative such as declines in physical and mental performance. This means that everyone, young or old, is likely to encounter the patterns of experience that establish automatic negative associations to 'Old'. Finally, most people don’t consider themselves old – the concept of old does seem to move with our own age! This perhaps healthy attitude of thinking of oneself as young may keep us from showing liking for a group that does not include us. For more information, see Mellott et al., 1999.

  7. Why are faces being used to represent the groups White and Black?

    Answer: Instead of faces, in many experiments we have used names that are typical of Black and White Americans to represent the groups such as Tyrone, Malik, and Jamel to represent Black Americans and names like Scott, Ryan, and Geoff to represent White Americans. The difficulty with names in the case of the race tests is that they may not accurately represent the two groups especially for Black Americans, many of whom have traditional Anglo-Saxon names. It may also be said that uniquely Black names in the United States captures a particular sub-group among Black Americans, with unique stereotypes associated with that sub-group. To avoid any such interpretations of the test, we use faces to represent the two groups.

    In laboratory experiments that have had the same subjects do two Black-White IAT versions, one using faces of unknown people (Black and White) and the other using names, we have found that the results are quite similar for the two tests. Of course there are many ways to represent a group (by name, by physical features, by language, cultural practices, etc.). Faces are an obvious choice because of the ease of judgment and because it doesn’t require knowledge of a language to make the judgment.

  8. Is the common preference for White over Black in the Black-White attitude IAT a simple 'ingroup' preference -- for example, the same as liking members of one's family or feeling connected to people who come from one's hometown?

    Answer: For White respondents, the automatic White preference may in some sense be an ingroup preference. However, the automatic White preference is more than that -- it is observed with similar strength among Asian Americans, for whom neither Black nor White is an ingroup. In this sense, the IAT may reflect an attitude that is learned through experience in a culture that does not regard Black Americans highly. Moreover, if the IAT result represented an ingroup preference exclusively, then Black Americans should show for their group the same level of automatic preference. We know that that is not the case. 50% of Black Americans show automatic Black preference, but the remaining half show an automatic White preference. We conclude from such data that the IAT preference is some combination of an automatic preference for one’s own, moderated by what one’s learns is regarded to be “good” in the larger culture.

  9. Do Black participants show a preference for Black over White on the race attitude IAT?

    Answer: Although the majority of White respondents show a preference for White over Black, the responses from Black respondents are more varied. Although some Black participants show liking for White over Black, others show no preference, and yet others show a preference for Black over White. Data collected from this website consistently reveal approximately even numbers of Black respondents showing a pro-White bias as show a pro-Black bias. Part of this might be understood as Black respondents experiencing the similar negative associations about their group from experience in their cultural environments, and also experiencing competing positive associations about their group based on their own group membership and that of close relations. For more information see Nosek, Banaji, & Greenwald, 2002.

  10. Do young children show automatic preference for White over Black?

    Answer: It is obvious that children are not born with preferences for one group or another. But early in development, infants appear to develop preferences for what is familiar such as their mother's voice, female faces (if their primary caregiver is female), and members of their race/ethnic group. It would appear that children are born with a mechanism to develop preferences rapidly, even though the specific things they come to prefer are a function of their environment. Frances Aboud showed that children explicitly express negative attitudes toward outgroups. We showed that 6 yr old, 10 yr old and adult Whites show the same level of automatic preference for their ingroup. What changes over time is the lowering of explicitly expressed preferences, with 6 yr olds reporting the strongest ingroup preference, 10 yr olds more moderate preference, and adults reporting the least of all. See Baron & Banaji, 2006; Dunham, Baron, & Banaji, in press.

  11. What does it mean that my IAT score is labeled 'slight', 'moderate', or 'strong'?

    Answer: Assume that you respond faster when flower pictures and pleasant words are paired on a single key than when insect pictures and pleasant words are paired on a single key. Your score would be described as showing automatic preference for flowers. (In general, a result shows an association between concepts that, when paired, get fast responding.) The labels 'slight,' 'moderate,' and 'strong' refer to the strength of the association (i.e. how strongly you associate flower pictures with pleasant words). No matter which IAT you took, if a speed difference between different pairings was so great as to be obvious to you, it would likely be labeled a 'strong' effect. The 'moderate' label also indicates a difference large enough so that you would probably notice it. A 'slight' effect is one that is noticeable in statistical analysis, but you may not have been aware of it.

  12. My feedback was that 'there were too many errors to determine a result.' Does this mean I have no automatic preference or association?

    Answer: The test requires a certain number of correct responses in order to generate an interpretable result. If your feedback was that 'there were too many errors to determine a result,' then the data produced in your test were ones that cannot be interpreted confidently with regard to automatic associations. This is different from a result that shows little or no association, which will be reported to you as 'little to no' automatic preference/association.

  13. When will implicit attitudes agree with explicit attitudes?

    Answer: There are two reasons why direct (explicit) and indirect (implicit) attitudes may not be the same. The simpler explanation is that a person may be unwilling to accurately report some attitude. For example, if a professor asks a student "Do you like soap operas?" a student who is fully aware of spending two hours each day watching soap operas may nevertheless say "no" because of being embarrassed (unwilling) to reveal this fondness. The second explanation for explicit-implicit disagreement is that a person may be unable to accurately report an attitude. For example, if asked "Do you like Turks?" many Germans will respond "yes" because they regard themselves as unprejudiced. However, an IAT may reveal that these same Germans have automatic negative associations toward Turks. (This IAT result has been demonstrated quite clearly in Germany.) Germans who show such a response are unaware of their implicit negativity and are therefore unable to report it explicitly. The unwilling-unable distinction is like the difference between hiding something from others versus something being hidden from you. For more information about the relationship between implicit and explicit attitudes see Nosek, 2005.

  14. What can I do about an automatic preference that I would rather not have?

    Answer: First, bear in mind that these website IAT tests are not perfectly accurate. You may want to repeat the test before drawing even a tentative conclusion of this sort. On the other hand, it is very possible to possess an automatic preference that you would rather not have (the researchers who developed this test fall into this category). One solution is to seek experiences that could undo or reverse the patterns of experience that could have created the unwanted preference. This could mean reading and seeing material that opposes the implicit preference. It could mean interacting with people that provide experiences that can counter your preference. A more practical alternative may be to remain alert to the existence of the undesired preference, recognizing that it may intrude in unwanted fashion into your judgments and actions. Additionally, you may decide to embark on consciously planned actions that can compensate for known unconscious preferences and beliefs. This may involve acts in ways that you may not naturally act – for example, smiling at people who are elderly if you know you have a implicit preference for the young. Identifying effective mechanisms for managing and changing unwanted automatic preferences is an active research question in psychological science. The good news is that automatic preferences, automatic as they are, are also malleable. For more information about the malleability see Blair, Ma, & Lenton, 2001.

  15. Might a result indicating preference for one group over another be due to differences in familiarity with the groups?

    Answer: The possibility that familiarity with one category (e.g, flowers) compared to the other (e.g. insects) can influence performance has been tested in research. It appears that the particular familiarity of individual items in the categories do not have much influence on IAT effects. At the same time, there is a know relation between familiarity and liking - people tend to like things that are familiar more than things that are unfamiliar. In this way, familiarity might be importantly related to implicit attitudes. Also, faces used in the web-versions of the race and age attitude IAT should be equally unfamiliar because they are all computer-constructed morphs -- none is the face of a real person. For more in depth information see Ottaway et al., 2000, Dasgupta et al., 1999, and Rudman et al., 1999. At the same time, there is an important relationship between familiarity and liking that reaches back to classic research in psychology. So, there may be a role for familiarity in liking of the categories – people tend to like things that they are familiar with compared to things that they are not. What might emerge as an implicit prejudice may have its basis in unfamiliarity. Certainly that’s what we think might account for young children’s preferences for their own group – a preference for what’s familiar and known. See Baron & Banaji, 2006.

  16. If my Black-White attitude IAT shows automatic White preference, does that mean that I'm prejudiced?

    Answer: This is a very important question. Social psychologists use the word 'prejudiced' to describe people who endorse or approve of negative attitudes and discriminatory behavior toward various out-groups. Many people who show automatic White preference on the Black-White attitude IAT are not prejudiced by this definition. It is possible to show biases on the IAT that are not consciously endorsed, or are even contradictory to intentional attitudes and beliefs. People who hold egalitarian conscious attitudes in the face of automatic White preferences may able to function in non-prejudiced fashion partly by making active efforts to prevent their automatic White preference from producing discriminatory behavior. However, when they relax these active efforts, these non-prejudiced people may be likely to show discrimination in thought or behavior. The question of relation between implicit and explicit attitudes is of great interest to social psychologists, several of whom are doing research on that question for race-related attitudes. For more information see Banaji, Nosek, & Greenwald, 2004.

  17. Do automatic racial or ethnic preferences occur in other countries, in regard to other groups?

    Answer: Yes. These have already been demonstrated, using the IAT, in various Asian, European, and Australian groups. We strongly suspect that these automatic preferences are a universal phenomenon.

  18. Why do many Americans show automatic preference for White over Black?

    Answer: Automatic White preference may be common among Americans because of the deep learning of negative associations to the group Black in this society. High levels of negative references to Black Americans in American culture and mass media may contribute to this learning. Such negative references may themselves be more the residue of the long history of racial discrimination in the United States than the result of deliberate efforts to discriminate in media treatments.

  19. What is an 'implicit' attitude?

    Answer: An attitude is a positive or negative evaluation of some object. An implicit attitude is an attitude that can rub off on associated objects. Example: The company for which your spouse works is attacked in a legal suit. An inclination to believe that the company is guiltless could be a reflection of your positive attitude toward your spouse -- your positive attitude toward the company provides an indirect (implicit) indicator of the positive attitude toward your spouse. (If you believe the company guilty, the marriage may be in difficulty!) The word 'implicit' is used because these powerful attitudes are sometimes hidden from public view, and even from conscious awareness. For more background on implicit attitudes, read this paper (Banaji, 2001).

  20. What is an 'implicit' stereotype?

    Answer: A stereotype is a belief that members of a group generally possess some characteristic (for example, the belief that women are typically nurturing). An implicit stereotype is a stereotype that is powerful enough to operate without conscious control. Example: Try answering this question: Is John Walters the name of a famous person? If you suspect yes, and especially if you were more likely to think yes than if the question had been about Jane Walters, you might be indirectly expressing a stereotype that associates the category of male (more than that of female) with fame-deserving achievement. And this may be the case even if there is famous female with a similar sounding last name (e.g., Barbara Walters). This type of judgment was used in one of the first experimental studies of implicit stereotypes (Banaji and Greenwald, 1995; Banaji, Hardin, & Rothman, 1994).

  21. What are 'explicit' attitudes or beliefs?

    Answer: Explicit attitudes and beliefs are ones that are directly expressed or publicly stated. For example, the question asking for your liking for particular groups or science or self before you take the IAT is an example of your explicit or consciously accessible attitude. The standard procedure for obtaining such direct expressions is to ask people to report or describe them (a procedure known as 'self-report' when used in research). For example, if you've ever responded to opinion surveys, the responses you typically gave there would be considered explicit attitudes or beliefs.

  22. What is the difference between 'implicit' and 'automatic'?

    Answer: The terms "unconscious" "automatic" and "implicit" are closely related. They all refer to mental associations that are so well-established as to operate without awareness, or without intention, or without control.

  23. What is the difference between 'preference' or 'attitude' and 'association'?

    Answer: An 'association' is the degree to which one concept is connected to, or associated with, another concept. For example, a person may associate science with males more than females because of beliefs about different male and female competencies or an observation of different participation rates of men and women in science. This type of association would reflect a stereotype: the association of a concept (science) with an attribute (male or female). A 'preference' or 'attitude' is a specific type of association. An attitude is the association between a concept and an evaluation such as good-bad, positive-negative, or pleasant-unpleasant. The IAT can measure the association between concepts and evaluations, which are interpreted as automatic preferences or attitudes. For example, a stronger association between Young and good versus Old and good on an Age IAT would suggest an implicit preference for Young versus Old.

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