Friday, November 1, 2013

What can we gain from the Implicit Association Test

There is a new meta-study (the psychologists really like those) on "Predicting ethnic and racial discrimination: A meta-analysis of IAT criterion studies." by Oswald, Frederick L.; Mitchell, Gregory; Blanton, Hart; Jaccard, James; Tetlock, Philip E. that appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 105(2), Aug 2013, 171-192.

The abstract reads:

"This article reports a meta-analysis of studies examining the predictive validity of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and explicit measures of bias for a wide range of criterion measures of discrimination. The meta analysis estimates the heterogeneity of effects within and across 2 domains of intergroup bias (interracial and interethnic), 6 criterion categories (interpersonal behavior, person perception, policy preference, microbehavior, response time, and brain activity), 2 versions of the IAT (stereotype and attitude IATs), 3 strategies for measuring explicit bias (feeling thermometers, multi-item explicit measures such as the Modern Racism Scale, and ad hoc measures of intergroup attitudes and stereotypes), and 4 criterion-scoring methods (computed majority–minority difference scores, relative majority–minority ratings, minority-only ratings, and majority-only ratings). IATs were poor predictors of every criterion category other than brain activity, and the IATs performed no better than simple explicit measures. These results have important implications for the construct validity of IATs, for competing theories of prejudice and attitude–behavior relations, and for measuring and modeling prejudice and discrimination."

A sentence from the conclusion

"Overall, simple explicit measures of bias yielded predictions no worse than the IATs".

I remember the first time I heard about IAT, I thought it was clever and it would help us make predictions. But, as always, this was an empirical question, not one where what matters are beliefs...

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