Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Dissimulating Anxiety in Front of the Implicit Association Test (Iat)

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Dissimulating Anxiety in Front of the Implicit Association Test (Iat)

Article excerpt


It has recently been stated (Greenwald, McGhee, Schwartz 1998, Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji 2005) that the Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures automatic cognition. One of the advantages of measuring automatic cognitions is that they are less susceptible to faking than explicit, self-report tests. The present study investigated whether and to what degree an IAT - Anxiety can be faked. We found that the IAT- Anxiety is susceptible to faking, but to a limited degree, certainly less than self-reports. Certain conditions seem to facilitate faking: (a) detailed instruction regarding the IAT assessment mechanism, and (b) subjects' level of anxiety. However, whereas some participants faked their IAT scores in the required direction, they could not completely hide their base rate performance, as shown by the significant correlations of IAT effects at base rate and faking. So, dissimulating anxiety on the IAT is not a completely conscious and controlled process. The implications of this study are discussed.

KEYWORDS: Implicit Association Test (IAT), faking, anxiety


A physician would never ask a diabetic patient to estimate his/her blood sugar level; he usually makes a special blood test for that purpose. Yet, psychologists rely mostly on self-reports for finding how controlling, sociable, anxious or depressed people are. At the moment, self-reports are one of the most popular assessment methods although it is well known that they are subject to several shortcomings as self-deceptions, self-enhancements or impression management factors that sometimes are significantly modifying the results.

Completing a self-report questionnaire implies the participant's desire and willingness to be assessed and, most importantly, their conscious effort to follow the standardized instructions and to honestly answer all test items. Direct measures are usually very explicit regarding the meaning of various questions and answers, rendering participants the possibility to consciously grasp their content. In some instances these characteristics of self-reports can lead to certain difficulties. If, for example, an employer wants to know how conscientious (or depressed, or anxious) a job interviewee is, he cannot easily differentiate between a person's conscientiousness and that person's self-presentation as conscientiousness. What makes matters worse is that interviewees know that employers are interested in hiring people high in conscientiousness and low in depression and anxiety. Lately self-reports became widely used in Romania even if they provide an almost ideal setting for dissimulation, and even if studies show that faking routinely happens in such contexts (see Steffens, 2004).

For the past several decades, scientists who frequently used self-reports have expressed concerns about the susceptibility of such measures to socially desirable self-presentations (Kim, 2003). For this reason, developing an assessment technique that is less vulnerable to voluntary control or intended distortions would be an important step toward a more valid measurement.

In response to these problems, substantial efforts have been invested in developing new methods for psychological research. Significant advances have been achieved in the study of implicit cognition (Grenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998; De Houwer, 2002; Asendorpf, Banse, & Mucke, 2002; Fazio & Olson, 2003; Greenwald, Nosek, & Banaji, 2003; Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, in press). As psychologists have come to understand the limits of the conscious mind, there has been an increased interest in measuring aspects of thinking that may not be easily available to consciousness.

The new, indirect measures do not require introspection on the part of the subject. For many constructs introspection is considered a valuable feature of the measurement; for others avoiding introspection is not at all welcome. For example, we can measure a person's math abilities by asking "How good are you at math? …

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