Over the past few years, a number of psychologists have begun to look more closely at the role these kinds of unconscious – or, as they like to call them, implicit – associations play in our beliefs and behavior, and much of their work has focused on a very fascinating tool called the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The IAT was devised by Anthony G. Greenwald, Mahzarin Banaji, and Brian Nosek, and it a based on a seemingly obvious – but nonetheless quite profound – observation. We make connections much more quickly between pairs of ideas that are already related in our minds than we do pairs of ideas that are unfamiliar to us. What does this mean?
Let me give you an example. Below is a list of words. Take a pencil or pen and assign each name to the category to which it belongs by putting a check mark either to the left or to the right of the word. You can also do it by tapping your finger in the appropriate column. Do it as quickly as you can. Don’t skip over words. And don’t worry if you make mistakes.
That was easy right? And the reason that was easy is that when we read of hear the name “John” or “Bob” or “Holly”, we don’t even have to think about whether it’s a masculine or feminine name. We all have a strong prior association between a first name like John and the male gender, or a name like Lisa and things female.
That was a warm up.
Now let’s complete an actual IAT. It works like the warm up, except that now I’m going to mix two entirely separate categories together. Once again, put a check mark to either the right or the left of each word, in the category to which it belongs
Male or Career Female or Family
My guess is that most of you found this a little harder, but that you were still pretty fast at putting the words into the right categories.
*All text referenced is taken from Blink by Malcolm Gladwell*