Test Your Biases

Researchers at Harvard, the University of Virginia, and the University of Washington have created a system they claim can uncover hidden biases that we all carry. They have developed the Implicit Association Test, which is actually a series of tests that assess your conscious and unconscious preferences for over 60 different topics ranging from pets to political issues, ethnic groups to sports teams, and entertainers to styles of music.

Project Implicit examines thoughts and feelings that exist either outside of conscious awareness or outside of conscious control. The tests are fast and visual, and have been crafted to avoid the kind of conscious self correction we tend to do when we think we know how a test expects us to answer a question. Here is how the site describes it:

Psychologists understand that people may not say what’s on their minds either because they are unwilling or because they are unable to do so. For example, if asked “How much do you smoke?” a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may purposely report smoking only 2 packs a day because they are embarrassed to admit the correct number. Or, the smoker may simply not answer the question, regarding it as a private matter. (These are examples of being unwilling to report a known answer.) But it is also possible that a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may report smoking only 2 packs because they honestly believe they only smoke about 2 packs a day. (Unknowingly giving an incorrect answer is sometimes called self-deception; this illustrates being unable to give the desired answer).

The unwilling-unable distinction is like the difference between purposely hiding something from others and unconsciously hiding something from yourself. The Implicit Association Test makes it possible to penetrate both of these types of hiding. The IAT measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to reportYou can participate in the program or just take the demonstration tests.

It’s really interesting stuff.

I took the demonstration versions of the two race related tests. Here are my results:

Darker Skin-Lighter Skin IAT
Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for Dark Skin relative to Light Skin

Black-White IAT
Your data suggest little or no automatic preference for Black relative to White

What’s it mean? Apparently I’m unconsciously color-blind. More information on the race related tests is available in the FAQ.

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