People don’t like to admit if they are prejudiced, whether it’s against blacks or gays, women or Jews, or the elderly.
But researchers of social psychology have tests that can measure conscious or unconscious bias, and one of them is the “Implicit Association Test.” Developed in 1998, the test asks implicit questions — as opposed to explicit — to expose bias on socially sensitive topics. Worldwide, various IAT versions have been used in more than 1,000 studies over the years. The test’s most controversial finding has been that 70 percent of people tested for their racial attitudes unconsciously preferred white people to black people, but only 20 percent reported such an attitude.
What researchers hadn’t determined up until now is how reliable IATs have been at predicting behavior related to these taboo prejudices. Now they know. SMU’s T. Andrew Poehlman in Cox School of Business was part of a team that validated the IAT’s ability to predict behavior around socially sensitive topics, in particular race.