Project Implicit is an ongoing research project at Harvard which demonstrates a method of assessing automatic associations between ideas. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) uses reaction times to overcome the most commonly reported limitations of self report questionnaires. It also shows how interviewers can be affected by strong unconscious biases in their decision-making.
Social desirability is a phenomenon which limits the extent to which people will ‘speak their minds’. It reflects a predisposition to give more socially acceptable responses to a questionnaire. It is compounded by the fact that people don’t always ‘know their minds’. This makes bias hard to uncover- an interviewer may not admit to a bias against a particular group – even to themselves.
The following excerpt from the Howard Goldberg film “S&M: Short and Male” demonstrates how unconscious bias affect our discrimination of individual differences in areas beyond gender and race.cular group, even to themselves. The effects of not “speaking one’s mind” or not “knowing one’s mind” are also critical for users of personality questionnaires who rely on self reports. The IAT provides a tool to understand divergences caused by social desirability and limited self-awareness. Research using the IAT has provided strong evidence of implicit biases among people who would be shocked to hear they have such biases.
For more information on the IAT go to https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/selectatest.html