The Implicit Attitudes Test

Question Description

AFTER you have taken the IATTest, discuss your experience with the IAT:

  1. Which test did you take and why?
  2. Do you think the results you received were accurate? Why or Why Not?
  3. Did this make you aware of anything you hadn't considered before?
  4. Discuss one idea from the supplementary reading (files provided) you felt was relevant to this.

(You do NOT need to disclose the results of your IAT unless you wish to)

Unformatted Attachment Preview

DISCOVERING HIDDEN BELIEFS Section 1: Do you know your own mind? In the middle of a comedy act in a Los Angeles club, Michael Richards (best known as “Kramer” on Seinfeld) launched into a racist tirade against several African American audience members. Shortly thereafter, Michael Richards appeared on late-night TV, apologizing for his actions, explaining with what seemed to be sincere confusion that what was “so crazy about this” is he did not consider himself to be a racist. Could Micheal Richards actually hold an unconscious bias against African Americans without consciously believing he was a racist? Can unconscious, or implicit biases as they are sometimes called, influence your behavior without your knowledge? Might you have an unknown bias lurking in your unconscious? Researchers at Harvard University have devised a test they say can detect these implicit attitudes. In this training, we will discuss what an implicit bias is, how it may impact your behavior, how to test for hidden beliefs, the real-world effects of bias, and finally we will look at what you can do to reduce the impact of bias. What is an implicit bias? Simply put, an implicit bias is a hidden preference. This hidden preference may be as benign as a preference for flowers over insects, or as potentially damaging as a preference for people of one ethnicity over another. An implicit bias is hidden; so well hidden that individuals are most often unaware of them. In the late 1990’s, Harvard University created a test that allows users to identify implicit biases. Out of the more than 3 million people that have been tested since that time, 80% were found to have negativity toward the elderly as opposed to the young, and 75-80% of whites and Asians were found to prefer white people over black. These unknown beliefs can lurk in the minds of good-intentioned people, influencing their behavior without their conscious knowledge. People can have an implicit bias while honestly claiming they do not discriminate. These hidden beliefs can have a significant impact in the business world, influencing hiring decisions and creating work environments hostile to certain groups. Could you have an implicit bias? If so, what can you do about it? Is Bias Biological? Diversity training commonly views bias as resulting from cultural influences, but implicit bias may actually have a biological cause. The implicit system is thought to be part of the "primitive" brain, designed to make quick, reactionary decisions. These mental shortcuts may be helpful for staying alive in the jungle (ex: deciding if a snake is poisonous), but these snap judgments may also lead to bias in our modern world. As Malcom Gladwell, author of the best-selling book “Blink” describes: “Our brain uses two very different strategies to make sense of …situation[s]. The first is the one we're most familiar with. It's the conscious strategy. … There's a second strategy, though. It operates a lot more quickly.… It has the drawback, however, that it operates…entirely below the surface of consciousness … our brain reaches conclusions without immediately telling us that it's reaching conclusions.” Luckily, biology isn’t destiny. It appears that while these cognitive shortcuts may be wired into us all, they are also fairly simple to change: Good news for all of us living in the urban jungles of the 21st century rather than the jungles of our ancestors. Meet the new employees of HighDollar Hotels Inc. Steven was hired 3 months ago at HighDollar Hotels Inc. and is doing very well in his position. One of the things Steven loves about his new job is how personable everyone is. His co-workers seem to be genuinely interested in each other as people. At the same time the warm, personable culture is making Steven anxious. He hasn’t yet told anyone on his team that he is gay, and he is worried about how they will react. Steven finds himself holding back information about what he does on the weekend and never mentions his partner of 10-years, Rick. Cassie was thrilled to land the job of her dreams at HighDollar Hotels Inc. so quickly after getting her MBA. While Cassie loves her work, she is actually considering quitting. She just doesn’t feel like she fits in. Every time she goes to a meeting, people are talking about their kids. Cassie is happily single and doesn’t plan on having children, but she’s finding this a real obstacle to getting to know other people and doesn’t feel like she’s given the same consideration as her co-workers with families when asking for time off or raises. The Awkward Exchange SCENARIO: Christopher, one of Steven’s co-workers, has been trying to “set him up” with a series of girls since he heard Steven wasn’t married. Steven finally tells Christopher that he is gay. Christopher seems uncomfortable and embarrassed, but says that some of his best friends have been gay. Steven notices however, that Christopher doesn’t stop by his desk to chat during break as much anymore. While the change in Christopher and Steven’s relationship is subtle, it is likely that Christopher’s awkward behavior is a result of having an implicit bias against homosexuals despite his conscious protests to the contrary. While Christopher’s behavior isn’t illegal, implicit biases can promote behavior that can be considered harassment or illegal discrimination. Happy Holidays? SCENARIO: Steven has been planning a Hawaiian Holiday Cruise. Since he was first in line to submit a request for time off, he is shocked when his request is denied and Christopher’s later request is honored. His supervisor Greg, explains that he doesn’t have “problems” with Steven being gay, but granted Christopher the leave since he has a “real family.” Denying Steven’s request for time off on the basis of his sexual orientation may be considered both illegal discrimination and harassment in those locations where sexual orientation is protected by law. Certainly, while Greg claims not to have a “problem” with Steven’s sexual orientation, his discriminatory behavior strongly suggests that he holds implicit bias against homosexuals. Cassie’s Confrontation It seems everyone else is socializing at family activities to which Cassie is never invited. After a meeting, Cassie expresses her frustration at being left out. Barbara, a co-worker, replies “you’re just jealous because you don’t have kids or a husband.” Afterward, Barbara begins leaving advertisements for sperm banks and dating services in Cassie’s “To Do” box. Barbara’s harassment of Cassie is likely caused by an implicit bias against females in the workplace and should be stopped immediately. Allowing the harassment to continue or affording opportunities for advancement in the workplace based on participation in social functions not open to Cassie may also be considered illegal discrimination, and is causing legal risk for HighDollar Hotels Inc. Interest Page: Implicit Bias Influences Medical Treatment Could a doctor’s unconscious beliefs affect treatments offered to patients? A disturbing study out of Massachusetts General Hospital is suggesting just that. Doctors were given a case study of a 50-year-old man named “Mr. Thompson” with a history of high blood pressure and smoking who was complaining of chest pain. The doctors were asked to diagnose and recommend treatment for “Mr. Thompson.” Some of the doctors were told that the patient was black, and others were told that he was white. The study found that doctors more often diagnosed the “black Mr. Thompson” with coronary artery disease, but that they tended to prescribe aggressive treatment for the “white Mr. Thompson” more often. Implicit bias appears to be the primary factor in their treatment decision, as doctors with higher implicit bias against black people were less likely to prescribe aggressive treatment. Their choice of treatment was not correlated with their stated views on racism but the relationship appeared only with the unconscious preference for white people over black people. Ignorance is Bliss? Discovering an often politically-incorrect bias lurking in your own psyche is not an appealing prospect for most people. So why would anyone want to take a test to find out what is going on in their unconscious mind? And does it really matter if someone holds hidden biases toward other types of people? The evidence -- from years of studies and literally millions of samples --indicates that the implicit biases we hold DO make a difference in the way we behave. According to the Harvard test of implicit bias, unconscious preference for whites over blacks has been observed at high rates in test subjects. Not surprisingly, race is also the most-alleged basis of employment discrimination under federal law. Several studies have demonstrated a relationship between implicit biases and discrimination. For example, one study showed that employers preferred white applicants with a criminal record over black applicants with no criminal history and another study indicated that temporary agencies preferred white applicants three-to-one over black applicants. Obviously, the impact of implicit bias cannot be ignored. Luckily attitudes can also be changed, and the first step toward a less-biased way of thinking is to discover your own hidden beliefs. How does an implicit bias test work? There are several ways of measuring implicit bias, but the Implicit Attitude Test (IAT) devised at Harvard University is by far the most widely publicized approach. The IAT works by asking you to sort images or words into categories. The theory is that the more closely associated the two concepts are, the easier and faster you will be able to pair them. For example, the concepts of “dog” and “pet” are closely associated so it should be easier (and faster) for a person to pair them than a less-familiar “dog” and “food source” pairing. The theory behind the IAT is that the more rapidly you are able to pair two concepts, the more strongly associated those concepts are. WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED: • Individuals can hold an unconscious bias against a certain group, even while honestly stating that they don’t believe they discriminate. • Implicit bias may have biological roots in the primitive brain. Originally, the primitive brain made quick judgments about the environment to assist with survival, but these quick judgments can now lead to stereotypes and bias. • The majority of people probably hold some type of implicit bias. These biases are probably influenced by negative cultural and mass media messages about stigmatized groups. • Implicit biases have been shown to influence behavior. These implicit biases can have a significant impact decisions made in your personal life, the business world, and even in medical decisions. • Once discovered and acknowledged, implicit biases can be reduced. Section 2: DISCOVERING HIDDEN BELIEFS These results can’t be right … The Harvard IAT has been the subject of much debate and many studies. Many test takers protest that since the results do not match their stated beliefs, the order of the images or words must be affecting the outcome, or the test results are merely measuring eye/hand coordination. Research findings however, have shown that not only are these claims invalid, but there is actually strong evidence to suggest that the IAT is a better predictor of biased behavior than an individual’s stated beliefs. The IAT is not, however, without limitations. The researchers who developed the test caution users as to how the findings should be applied, stating: “ is much preferable to use it mainly to develop awareness of one’s own and others’ automatic preferences and stereotypes. Using the IAT as the basis for making significant decisions about self or others could lead to undesired and unjustified consequences.” The presence of an implicit bias against women for example, does not make you a chauvinist. Although implicit biases can have a strong influence on behavior, individuals still can exercise conscious control over their actions. And the bottom line is: behavior is what matters. If You Hold A Hidden Bias, You Are Not Alone… Many test takers are shocked to find they hold an implicit bias against one or more groups, despite the fact that they honestly do not believe they are biased. The millions of tests that have been taken on the IAT website show that the vast majority of people have some type of bias, and many even hold a bias against members of their own group. Even though most test takers claimed to have no preference, 88 percent of white people had a pro-white implicit bias; 82 percent of heterosexuals showed implicit biases for straight people; more than two-thirds of non-Arab, non-Muslim volunteers had implicit biases against Arab Muslims; and the majority of test takers showed a bias in favor of men in the workplace and women in domestic roles. Even members of minority groups demonstrated an implicit bias against members of their own group: nearly half of all black people tested showed a pro-white bias; over one-third of Arab Muslims showed an anti-Muslim bias; and 38 percent of gays and lesbians showed a bias for straight people over homosexuals. There’s just something about Mary… Mary has been with HighDollar Hotels Inc. for 10 years, working hard to move up. She’s just been told that she wasn’t selected for the promotion she applied for. Mary is stunned. She knows she is the most qualified candidate for the job and yet this is the second time she has been turned down for the position. Mary doesn’t want to be “paranoid” but is starting to wonder if she hasn’t received promotions because she is a woman. Tom, a Vice-President at HighDollar Hotels Inc. is feeling uncertain about the promotion decision he has just made. After reviewing all the candidates, Tom chose Mark for the promotion instead of Mary, even though “on paper” Mary seemed to be the more qualified candidate. He knows Mary is going to be disappointed and he will have to justify his choice, but he can’t really explain it. Mary certainly has been a valuable employee and had all the right qualifications, but something just felt wrong about promoting her over Mark. In the end, the promotion decision was really just based on a “gut feeling.” He hopes he made the right decision. Could Tom’s decision be based on a hidden bias? Tom’s Turmoil SCENARIO: Mary files a discrimination complaint and Tom is required to complete training on hidden beliefs. He discovers that “gut feeling” about Mary was probably based on his unconscious bias against women. Tom sees how his bias is limiting professionally and personally and wants to change, but doesn’t know how. Positive information, experiences and real-life exposure to women in the business world may help to reduce Tom’s bias. Participating in activities typically dominated by women and seeking out professional relationships with women may also help. Interestingly, studies suggest that actively trying to suppress negative thoughts does not reduce bias and may actually exacerbate the issue. INTEREST PAGE: Business Impact of Implicit Bias Does implicit bias affect who gets hired? To find out, economists at the MIT and the University of Chicago sent out 5,000 résumés to 1,250 hiring employers. Every employer got four “résumés”: two average applicants (one with a “black” name and one with a “white” name), and two highly skilled applicants (one with a “black” name and one with a “white” name). Then they measured which “applicants” were called for interviews. To the economists' surprise, the résumés with white-sounding names triggered 50% more callbacks than résumés with black-sounding names. In fact, the highly skilled “black” résumés drew no more calls than the average “black” résumés. More distressingly, the average “white” applicant received many more callbacks than the highly skilled “black” applicants. Now consider the fact that the employers in the area stated they were actively recruiting for minority candidates. Human resource professionals informed of the study were stunned. The potential significance of implicit biases’ impact on job opportunities for minority candidates cannot be understated when one considers that 80% of whites and Asians who have taken the Harvard IAT show a preference for whites over blacks. The Resume Revamp SCENARIO: HighDollar Hotels Inc. wants to make certain that implicit biases do not influence hiring decisions. You are instructed to create a “bias free” resume review process. While HighDollar Hotels Inc. should establish and inform all employees of policies prohibiting discrimination, this instruction alone is probably not sufficient to eliminate the influence of unconscious beliefs. Having someone not involved in the interview process remove personal information and/or names of applicants and presenting only the qualifications along with an identifying code might be one way to lessen the chances of screening out qualified applicants on the basis of an implicit bias. Leveling the Playing Field SCENARIO: The resumes have been screened and you are ready to interview applicants, but you want to ensure that the interviewing process is also fair and minimizes the influence of implicit bias. Telling interviewers to be unbiased while interviewing applicants probably won’t help to minimize the effect of unconscious bias. To reduce the influence of bias, try selecting a panel of interviewers from diverse age, race, gender, and other backgrounds. In cases where a single interviewer must choose a candidate, some organizations choose to conduct phone interviews to minimize the influence of bias. WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED: Minimizing Implicit Bias in the Workplace • Implicit biases and the effect they have on hiring and employee development practices can exert large, cumulative influences over recruiting and retaining employees who are members of a minority group. • Removing personal information from resumes before screening for interviews may help minimize the influence of racial bias. • Selecting diverse groups of individuals to interview applicants may help to minimize the influence of bias in the interview process. • Some organizations that cannot provide a panel of interviewers choose to minimize bias by conducting telephone interviews or seating applicants behind a screen. • Implicit biases may be minimized by increasing your exposure to the group you hold a bias against, reading or viewing positive stories about members of the group, and consciously choosing to interact with people you may normally avoid. • Trying to suppress negative thoughts may actually increase bias. Instead, try increasing the number of positive thoughts about the group in question. PRINTABLE TAKE-AWAYS What Can You Do? Most everyone holds some type of implicit bias. The good news is reducing these biases is possible by making some simple, consistent changes. Print out and use the following pages to help create your own personalized bias-reduction plan! LOSE THE ATTITUDE: Suggestions for Bias Reduction The suggested activities below may lessen your implicit bias: 1. Identify and watch three movies that show positive examples of the group you are biased against (ex: older adult bias = watch “Cocoon”) 2. Identify a member of the group you are biased against that has made a positive contribution to society. Read about this person’s life and post a photo of the individual somewhere you will see it regularly. 3. Make a conscious effort to smile and greet members of the group you hold a bias against when you have the opportunity. 4. Read a book about the history of the group you hold a bias against. 5. Take a trip to a neighborhood ...
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UT Austin

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