Growing and living in a dynamic social environment, people continuously experience the cognitive and emotional development and changes that consequently reflect on their outlook. In other words, a particular society or community has a tremendous and direct impact on the formation of individuals’ perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and ideology overall. This paper aims at examining the issues of forming attitudes and how implicit personal biases can develop understandings at a local, national, or global level. In addition, the paper will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the Implicit Association Test (IAT).
In psychology, an attitude is the stable organization of positive and negative judgments, feelings, and behaviors towards socially significant objects, tendencies, events, persons, or groups. In terms of influencing people’s actions, attitudes can also be implicit, that is, unconscious, and explicit, those individuals are aware of. Researchers categorize attitudes into three foundations, namely, cognitive, affective or emotional, and behavioral (Cherry, 2020). Generally, attitude formation occurs via either the persuasion of others, direct experience, or the media.
Many factors affect a person’s attitudes, the primary of which are social, conditioning, familial, experiencing. In particular, social norms and tendencies play a significant role in attitude development, mainly through established, rooted, and emerging cultural rules, traditions, stereotypes, language, and expectations regarding individuals’ behavior. Attitudes also result from experience that may appear due to direct personal interaction with an object and person or come from observation. Family considerably impacts the elementary stage of attitudes held by an individual via close and intense relationships between parents, relatives, and children. Finally, conditioning factors imply internal influences, such as media, colleagues, or friends, on an individual’s way of thinking.
Implicit bias, also known as implicit social cognition, refers to attitudes and stereotypes that affect decisions, understanding, behavior toward other social groups in an unconscious way. These associations develop under the influence of personal experience and external agents, such as media or family, during the whole lifetime. Capers et al. (2017) state that biases can form society’s conduct in many settings, including work, legal proceedings, and school. For example, while considering resumes, an employer may prefer White applicants rather than Black or Hispanic job seekers, phenomena predominant in society. At a national level, one research revealed that people with the most distinguishing Afrocentric traits obtained more severe sentences than their counterparts with less notable Afrocentric features (“Understanding implicit bias,” n.d.). Finally, biases toward Jews are widespread globally and acquire different forms, especially anti-Semitic stereotypes and prejudice leading to defamation, bullying, and hate crimes.
Analysis of Implicit Association Test
Implicit Association Test is applied to determine unconscious judgments and behavior, using a computer program displaying a series of words and images to respondents. In particular, it is used to measure unconscious biases linked to race, religion, gender, disability, weight, sexuality, among others. Thus, the test is highly adaptable as it encompasses a broad array of associations and stereotypes. IAT also offers a favorable environment to freely answer questions since a participant is not constrained with personal attitudes towards researchers.
However, it is worth noting that the test has some credibility issues. For example, several separate meta-analyses demonstrated that IAT is an unreliable forecaster of discriminatory behavior (Nguyen, 2019). The test also does not consider age, tiredness, and stress that can affect the speed of respondents’ replies to questions. Moreover, personal mental abilities, including the capacity of pairing words and pictures, are not taken into account.
Capers IV, Q., Clinchot, D., McDougle, L., & Greenwald, A. G. (2017). Implicit racial bias in medical school admissions. Academic Medicine, 92(3), 365-369.
Cherry, K. (2020). Attitudes and behavior in psychology. Verywell Mind. Web.
Nguyen, H. (2019). Reliability and validity of Implicit Association Test. HCD Research. Web.
Understanding implicit bias. (n.d.). The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Web.