In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Implicit Association Test (IAT)

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Overviews
  • Broad Conceptualizations of Implicit Association Test (IAT) Results
  • Interaction of Implicit and Explicit Cognition on the Implicit Association Test (IAT)
  • Predicting Meaningful Behavior on the Implicit Association Test (IAT)
  • Malleability of Implicit Cognition
  • Balance among Implicit Cognitions
  • Biological Underpinnings of Implicit Association Test (IAT) Results
  • Developmental Perspectives
  • Critiques and Alternative Explanations of Implicit Association Test (IAT) Results
  • Variations of the Implicit Association Test (IAT)
  • Implications of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) for Psychology

Psychology Implicit Association Test (IAT)
Steven Lehr, Mahzarin Banaji
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0033


Starting in the 1970s, as microcomputers made possible the measurement of mental computations in milliseconds, psychologists began to develop computer-based measures of unconscious cognition. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is one such measure that has been used primarily to understand social cognition. The IAT was initially used to measure implicit intergroup attitudes, was quickly adapted to measure implicit stereotypes and self-concept, and has subsequently been used in hundreds of studies of psychological processes, from person perception and intergroup cognition to psychopathology and legal decisions. Indeed, since its introduction in 1998, the IAT has emerged as a dominant measure of implicit cognition, appearing in more than 2,000 published articles. This article briefly reviews the origins, validity, and interpretation of the IAT, the scientific knowledge gained from it and the guidelines for its use in research.

Introductory Works

Following the call in Greenwald and Banaji 1995 for measures of individual differences in implicit attitudes, stereotypes, and self-esteem, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) was presented in Greenwald, et al. 1998. The test requires subjects to rapidly sort two stimuli together in varying pairs, with the time it takes to complete the pairings and the errors made during the process reflecting the strength of the underlying association between the different classes of stimuli. For example, Greenwald, et al. 1998 shows that subjects tend to respond more quickly when sorting flower names (such as rose, daffodil, tulip) with good words (peace, glory, laughter) and insects (fly, wasp, beetle) with bad words (war, failure, sadness), compared with the opposite pairings (flowers with bad concepts and insects with good concepts). Since the task is more easily demonstrated than explained, readers unfamiliar with it should consider visiting the Project Implicit website, which offers opportunities to sample various IATs and resources for both interested laypeople (see especially the list of frequently asked questions) and psychological scientists. In addition, a summary of data obtained from several classic IATs is in Nosek, et al. 2002.

  • Greenwald, Anthony G., and Mahzarin R. Banaji. 1995. Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review 102.1: 4–27.

    DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.102.1.4

    This article reviews early evidence of “implicit” cognition, which can be introspectively unknown to the actor, and calls for an individual difference measure for these constructs, which was subsequently met by the IAT.

  • Greenwald, Anthony G., Debbie E. McGhee, and Jordan L. K. Schwartz. 1998. Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The Implicit Association Test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74.6: 1464–1480.

    DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.74.6.1464

    Introduces and validates the IAT using data from known groups.

  • Nosek, Brian A., Mahzarin R. Banaji, and Anthony G. Greenwald. 2002. Harvesting implicit group attitudes and beliefs from a demonstration web site. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice 6.1: 101–115.

    DOI: 10.1037/1089-2699.6.1.101

    Using data from more than 600,000 participants in Project Implicit, the authors review results of nine IATs: race attitudes (using both faces and names), age attitudes (using both faces and names), gender-science stereotypes, gender-career stereotypes, implicit self-esteem, attitudes toward math versus the arts, and attitudes toward the 2000 presidential candidates.

  • Project Implicit.

    Since its founding in 1998, Project Implicit has recorded roughly 13 million completed tests. To fulfill its dual mission of advancing scientific understanding and educating the public about unconscious biases, the site offers a variety of demonstration and research tasks (allowing the user to take an IAT or similar test used for actual psychological research) and numerous educational materials and resources for psychological researchers.

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