Implicit association test

In 1995 Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald developed a test, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure the strength of automatic associations, revealing people’s hidden biases about gender, race, age, disability, sexuality and 90 other topics.

The IAT presents respondents with different stimuli dependent on the category; for example for the Race IAT, white faces, black faces, "good" words, and "bad" words. Respondents complete trials in which they sort white/good pairings from black/bad pairings and white/bad pairings from black/good pairings.

Implicit racial bias is demonstrated by measuring the respondents’ "response latency," i.e., the difference in time it takes to complete the different trials.

Race (Black – White IAT)

For the Race IAT most respondents associate positive words with white faces and negative words with black faces. In an additional IAT which measures associations between race and weapons, the majority of respondents associate black faces with weapons and white faces with harmless objects.

Age (Young - Old IAT)

Most respondents, even the elderly, find it easier to associate older people with “Bad” (negative words) and Young people with “Good” (positive words), than the reverse.

Results on unconscous bias and age from Project Implicit 

These are the results of everyone who has taken the on-line Old People Young People IAT to date. See more at Project Implicit.

Percent of respondents with each score  
Strong automatic preference for Young people compared to Old people  35%
Moderate automatic preference for Young people compared to Old people  29%
Slight automatic preference for Young people compared to Old people  16%
Little to no automatic preference between Young and Old people  14%
Slight automatic preference for Old people compared to Young people  4%
Moderate automatic preference for Old people compared to Young people  2%
Strong automatic preference for Old people compared to Young people 0.4%

Disability (Disabled - Abled IAT)

Most respondents show a moderate (27%) to strong preference (33%) for abled people compared to disabled people.

Gender and Leaders and Gender and Career IATs

Investigations of how people associate gender and leadership, using the IAT, found all groups showed a tendency to associate men and leadership more readily than women and leadership . For the Gender–Career IAT most respondents (both male and female) associated career words with men and family words with female.

Unconscious biases and implicit associations are driven by exposure to cultural stereotypes. Because we’re all equally exposed to these stereotypes, we’re all equally likely to exhibit these biases.