I took three Implicit Assocation Tests in the website which are the Fat-Thin, Gay-Straight, and Gender-Career IATs. I chose these because of personal preference, interest, and curiosity about my conscious and unconscious attitude towards these categories. For the all the IATs, there are four parts to the task. In the Fat-Thin test, the first part presents several photographs of males’ and females’ faces which are either fat or thin. These are shown one after the other in no particular order. The task of the subject is to sort these pictures into the fat and thin category as quickly as possible.
The next task is a series of words which the subject should categorize into good or bad. Then, the third part reorganizes the four (4) categories such that they come in two (2) pairs (fat and bad / thin and good). The photographs and words are then presented one after the other and the subject must put them into the correct categories. Finally, the pairs are switched (fat and good / thin and bad) and the subject again must choose the proper category as fast as possible. The same instructions go for the following two IATs, only that for the Gay-Straight IAT, the categories are (male and family / female and career).
The rationale behind the first and second parts of the task is to test the normal reaction time of the subject to measure how fast he/she could categorize the words or pictures. Also, these parts would get him/her acquainted with the categorization task. The third and fourth parts are the crucial stages of the test because these establish the mindset or prejudice of the subject for the main categories. In the Fat-Thin IAT, the usual cultural perspective is that thin is good and beautiful, while fat is bad and ugly.
If the subject responds faster when thin is paired with good and fat is paired with bad, than when it’s the other way around, it means that the subject has stronger preference for thin people. The same goes for the Gay-Straight IAT as the common bias of most people is toward straight people and heterosexual relationships. The Gender-Career IAT, on the other hand, is interesting because the common notion is that males are usually the ones who are associated with career whereas females are more concerned about familial and household matters.
As results of my IATs, I found that I have strong automatic preference for fat people than thin people, a moderate automatic response for straight people as compared to gay people, and that I have a strong association of male with career, and female with family. I find the result for my first IAT to be surprising as consciously, I would prefer thin rather than fat people in most cases. The fact that the IAT revealed that I have a strong preference for fat people may be because the photographs only show faces and that this could be a contributing factor for my categorization response.
Personally, I feel for fat people and I think they are good people with big hearts. Perhaps, this mentality for fat people is seated in my unconscious and shown out in the open as the task required rapid automatic response. For the second and third IAT, there is not much of a surprise because I agree with the results of the tests. I am somewhat conservative when it comes to gender and relationships, and I have a traditional approach to family and career.
For most parts, the IAT may be a valid measure to know the extent of a person’s bias or prejudice as the automatic response of a person to a stimulus shuts off the conscious cognitive process and enables the unconscious mental representations to surface. This could be a social measure as most of our biases stem from what we learn in the society as part of our culture. The discrepancy between the length of time a person is able to respond correctly in the categorization task for the common category pairing and the uncommon one shows that indeed there is cognitive dissonance in the subject’s part.
However, there are several factors which might affect its validity. Technically, there is a strong tendency for the subject to get confused with the task especially that it is time-pressured. Furthermore, some knowledge about the test itself, and the preexisting prejudice or bias existing in the society forces the subject to consciously choose the answer that would show that he/she does not discriminate anybody or anyone. Finally, the IAT still has its advantages and uses, despite its flaws.
It could be used as a research technique to help clinical diagnosis of anxiety and other personality disorders. It could also be used in industrial psychology as a supplemental measure for job applicants, for example. Lastly, it could be utilized in market research studies as it measures attitude towards something. Nevertheless, researchers, specialists, and clinicians must be careful in their use of this technique and watch out for intervening factors which might confound the results.
They must also not solely rely on this test to make a conclusion. Rather, it would be better if they use supplemental measures to be more accurate with the results. Works Cited Gladwell, M. Blink. 2005. Myers, D. G.. Social Psychology. New York. McGraw-Hill. p. 331-337. 2005. Wilson, T. D. Strangers to ourselves: The origins and accuracy of beliefs about one’s own mental states. In J. H. Harvey & G. Weary (Eds. ), Attribution in contemporary psychology. New York. Academic Press. 1985.
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