Improving the Predictive Validity of the Implicit Association Test

By Heider, Jeremy D.; Skowronski, John J. | North American Journal of Psychology, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Improving the Predictive Validity of the Implicit Association Test


Heider, Jeremy D., Skowronski, John J., North American Journal of Psychology


Two experiments examined the extent to which implicit (Implicit Association Test [IAT]) and explicit (Pro-Black/Anti-Black Attitudes Questionnaire [PAAQ]) measures of racial attitudes predicted social behaviors of Caucasian participants toward African American targets. Experiment 1 showed that both the IAT and the Pro-Black subscale of the PAAQ predicted behavior toward an African American partner in a Prisoner's Dilemma. Experiment 2 showed that the IAT predicted friendliness of nonverbal behaviors directed toward Caucasian confederates relative to African American confederates, and that Pro-Black scores predicted friendliness of verbal behaviors toward the African American confederates. Importantly, these results could not be attributed to heightened attitude accessibility because the attitude and behavioral assessments in both experiments were separated by one week and counterbalanced.

The past two decades have seen the development and widespread use of implicit attitude measures (for examples, see Dovidio, Kawakami, & Gaertner, 2002; Fazio & Olson, 2003; Nosek & Banaji, 2001; Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, 2005). One of the most popular implicit measures is the Implicit Association Test, or IAT (Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998). The IAT is based on the idea that individuals should find it easy to respond in a similar manner to two concepts that are similar in evaluative connotation, and should find it difficult to respond in a similar manner to two concepts that are dissimilar in evaluative connotation. The reliability of the IAT, as well as its convergence with other implicit measures (e.g., evaluative priming; Fazio, Jackson, Dunton, & Williams, 1995), has been established through a number of investigations (e.g.,

Bosson, Swann, & Pennebaker, 2000; Cunningham, Preacher, & Banaji, 2001; Greenwald & Nosek, 2001).

Much of the research on the IAT has explored its validity by showing that response latencies on the IAT vary sensibly by "known-groups." For example, individuals find it easier to respond on the IAT task when one response key must be used to indicate both identifiers of an in-group and positive words, and a second key must be used to indicate identifiers of an out-group and negative words. Conversely, responding is more difficult (in terms of increased response latency and possibly greater commission of errors) when the task asks individuals to use one response key to indicate both identifiers of an in-group and negative words and a second key to identify both identifiers of an outgroup and positive words (Greenwald et al., 1998; Rudman, Greenwald, Mellott, & Schwartz, 1999). Such results reflect in-group favoritism, a result that has powerfully emerged in other attitude studies (see Brewer, 1979; Hamilton, 1976).

Such in-group favoritism ought to be reflected in behavior. However, perhaps because of its relative newness, prediction of in-group favoritism behavior using the IAT has been studied less extensively than it has for other implicit techniques (e.g., evaluative priming; Fazio, Sanbonmatsu, Powell, & Kardes, 1986). However, with minor exceptions (e.g., Karpinski & Hilton, 2001), the evidence that has accumulated thus far seems promising (for a review, see Poehlman, Uhlmann, Greenwald, & Banaji, 2006). For example, McConnell and Leibold (2001) had Caucasian participants interact with both Caucasian and African American experimenters. Results indicated that pro-Caucasian biases on the IAT were negatively correlated with ratings of the quality of the interactions with the African American experimenter. That is, high implicit prejudice was correlated with perceptions of lower-quality interactions.

Although the findings of McConnell and Leibold (2001) are promising, they must be interpreted with caution for a number of reasons. First, the interaction with an African American occurred immediately after completion of the attitude measures, whose race-related purpose was almost certainly apparent to participants. …

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