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Ethical Considerations

The purpose of this website is to educate about implicit bias. We give feedback on Implicit Association Test (IAT) performance to raise awareness and encourage self-reflection.

Participation in scientific research should not be mandatory

The tests at this site are scientific research, and it is not ethical to require that people participate in scientific research. We appreciate that instructors, employers, and others might want to use the site for school or work assignments, and we encourage you to do so. However, it is not ethical to pressure or force people to participate against their will. Instructors who grant course credit for participation should offer an alternative assignment. For example, students who don’t want to participate may read and summarize a scientific or popular press article about implicit bias. And you should also never ask anyone to share their personal feedback with you.

The IAT should not be used for diagnostic purposes

Research shows the IAT is an effective educational tool for raising awareness about implicit bias, but the IAT cannot and should not be used for diagnostic or selection purposes (e.g., hiring or qualification decisions). For example, using the IAT to choose jurors is not justifiable, but it is appropriate to use the IAT to teach jurors about implicit bias.

The IAT does not meet the standards of measurement reliability for diagnostic use. Just as blood pressure readings might change from one doctor's visit to another depending on how stressed and tired you are, and even how much coffee you may have had, IAT results can change from one time to another depending on where you currently are, your recent thoughts or experiences, and deliberate strategies you might use to influence test results.

Using the IAT for research

People might not like their IAT results. Being confronted with IAT results might cause defensiveness or negative emotions. If you are considering using the IAT in your research, your research plan should take this possibility into account.

It is also important to understand that changes in IAT performance over time might reflect increased experience with the test rather than a genuine change in implicit bias. Pre-post research designs (where you administer an IAT, administer some intervention, and then give another IAT) are discouraged unless you have a “control group” that does not complete the intervention.

The IAT has potential for use beyond the scientific laboratory. However, in the absence of relevant scientific expertise, there is potential for misuse. We do not advise its use outside of the safeguards of a research institution.