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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

February 22, 2006

i don’t like your (implicit) attitude!

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 11:48 pm

Does your unconscious mind harbor prejudices that differ from your conscious

beliefs regarding race, gender or sexuality?  The Implied Association Test (IAT),

from Project Implicit, attempts to reveal whether there is a divergence between

one’s “explicit” attitude or belief on a subject, and one’s “implicit” or unconscious

beliefs, stereotypes, biases or preferences on the subject.



An introduction to the site states: “It is well known that people don’t always

‘speak their minds’, and it is suspected that people don’t always ‘know their minds’.

Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology. This web

site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences

much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods.”


There are demonstration IAT’s for topics ranging from  Disability, Skin-tone,Gender-

Science, Religion, Weapons, Gender-Career, Race (Black-White, Asian American,

Native American), Sexuality (Straight-Gay), Arab-Muslim, Body Weight, Presidential

Popularityy, and Age (Young-Old),  Each demo test takes about ten minutes to


Project Implicit is jointly sponsored by Psych Departments at Harvard,

Virginia and Washington Universities. The scientists behind the Project 

are Mahzarin Rustum Banaji (Harvard); Brian Nosek (U.Virginia); and

Anthony Greewald (Univ. of Washington)

The heart of the Project is a large-scale study of preferences. Volunteers

“have the opportunity to assess your conscious and unconscious prefer-

ences for over 90 different topics ranging from pets to political issues,

ethnic groups to sports teams, and entertainers to styles of music,”

while assisting the Project. 



                                                                                                                                      M.R. Banaji  

Younger readers may have already heard of Project Implicit from their recent  

college days.  I discovered it today, through an email invitation from the Harvard

Alumni Club in NYC, to attend a talk on March 2nd by Prof. Banaji, entitled

“Mind Bugs: The Psychology of Ordinary Prejudice.”  [If, like me, you can’t

attend, a similarly-titled talk given by Prof. Banaji at Yale Law School is available

from its Video Archive (“Mind Bugs,” March 11, 2003).]   Banaji focuses “on

systems that operate in implicit or unconscious mode and their relationship to

conscious social cognition. . .  [S]he asks about the social consequences of

unintended thought and feeling, and its implications for theories of individual

responsibility and social justice.”


Yes, it sounds a little woo-woo to me, too.  However, it’s also fascinating. The 

IATs ask you to put words or pictures into one of two categories.  If it takes you 

longer to match a word with the appropriate category, it is assumed that your

unconscious or implicit beliefs make your conscious mind work harder to get

the “right” answer — thus, showing an implicit preference/bias for the incorrect



Before starting an IAT, you must agree that:

“I am aware of the possibility of encountering interpretations

of my IAT test performance with which I may not agree.

Knowing this, I wish to proceed.” 

So far, I’ve only taken the Gender-Career IAT.  Because I responded more

quickly in assigning Male names to the Career category than assigning Female

names to that category, my test performance data “suggest a moderate association

of Male with Career and Female with Family compared to Female with Career and

Male with Family.” 




A lot of people, including Prof. Banaji, and test-takers at Montgomery-Blair High

School, in Bethesda, Maryland (Silver Chips Online, April 6, 2005), are unhappy

with the assessments they receive after taking IATs.   An article last month in

the Washington Post Magazine ,”See No Bias: Many Americans believe they are

not prejudiced. Now a new test provides powerful evidence that a majority of us

really are” (by Shankar Vedantam, Jan. 23, 2005, p. W12), takes an extended

look at Project Implicit, the results and conclusions drawn from

Here are a few intriguing passages from the WaPo article:

“The tests were better predictors of many behaviors than people’s explicit

opinions were. They predicted preferences on matters of public policy —

even ideological affiliations. Banaji and others soon developed tests for bias

against gays, women and foreigners. The bias tests, which have now been

taken by more than 2 million people, 90 percent of them American, and used

in hundreds of research studies, have arguably revolutionized the study of





“In their simplicity, the tests have raised provocative questions about this

nation’s ideal of a meritocracy and the nature of America’s red state/blue state

political divide. Civil rights activists say the tests have the potential to address

some of the most corrosive problems of American society; critics, meanwhile,

have simultaneously challenged the results and warned they could usher in an

Orwellian world of thought crimes. Banaji has received death threats from supre-

macist groups; sensing that the tests can detect secrets, officials from the Central

Intelligence Agency have made discreet inquiries.


But the tests do not measure actions. The race test, for example, does not measure

racism as much as a race bias. Banaji is the first to say people ought to be judged by

how they behave, not how they think. She tells incredulous volunteers who show biases

that it does not mean they will always act in biased ways — people can consciously

override their biases. But she also acknowledges a sad finding of the research: Although

people may wish to act in egalitarian ways, implicit biases are a powerful predictor of how

they actually behave.” 

Although the tests are anonymous, volunteers are asked about their sex, race and whether they

consider themselves liberal or conservative.  Here’s one of the most provocative conclusions from

Banaji and her colleagues:

Conservatives, on average, show higher levels of bias against gays, blacks and Arabs than

liberals, says Brian Nosek, a psychologist at the University of Virginia and a principal IAT

researcher with Greenwald and Banaji. In turn, bias against blacks and Arabs predicts policy

preferences on affirmative action and racial profiling. This suggests that implicit attitudes affect

more than snap judgments — they play a role in positions arrived at after careful consideration.




“Brian Jones, a Republican National Committee spokesman, says the findings are interesting

in an academic context but questions whether they have much relevance in the real world. “It’s

interesting to ponder how people implicitly make decisions, but ultimately we live in a world where

explicit thoughts and actions are the bottom line,” he says. Volunteers drawn to the tests were

not a random sample of Americans, Jones adds, cautioning against reading too much into the


For more on this topic, see Stealthy Attitudes, from the Harvard Magazine (Summer 2002).


All and all, a lot of food for thought, debate, devil’s advocacy.  Although I’ll have to decline the

invitation, I’m glad the Harvard Club of NYC pointed me to Project Implicit and the work of Prof.

Banaji and her colleagues. 


podiumSN  All this talk of psychology put me into the mood for

a bit of poetry from Prof. George Swede:


anchored supertanker

                 its reflection





county graveyard

a dog burying

a bone




fishing pole


made for each other

the fishing pole and

the full moon




dropping stone after stone

into the lake     I keep






the Arkansas Bar irks me

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 7:16 pm

Later this evening, I will post on the topic of our implicit attitudes and

biases.  First, though, I want to mention one very explicit attitude/bias

that I have: I do not respect bar associations that put the interests of the

lawyers before those of clients (see bar & guild) — especially when lawyers

are merely being asked to give clients information that is important to their

selection of counsel. 




Today, my bad attitude goes out to the Arkansas Bar Association. Why?

Via Ben Cowgill, I learned that the Arkansas Bar’s House of

Delgates voted by a two-to-one margin to reject a proposed

rule requiring lawyers in active practice to certify whether

they carry professional liability insurance.  As Ben reported:

The proposal had been drafted by the Bar’s Profession-

alism Task Force and had received a strong endorsement

from the Bar’s Board of Governors. 


Arkansas is the first state that has rejected the concept

of mandatory reporting of professional liability insurance

since the ABA recommended a Model Court Rule on Insur-

ance Disclosure, in August of 2004.

The rejected rule is a weak form of disclosure — made to the Court

and not directly to clients.  Ben lists eleven states that now require

disclosure along with annual registration statements: AZ, DE, IL,

KS, MI, NE, NV, NM, NC, VA and WV.  There are also five states

requiring notification of clients: AK, NH, OH, PA and SD.  In addi-

tion, as Ben notes in his comprehensive review, “Oregon is still the

only state which requires all members of the Bar to maintain profes-

sional liability insurance.”  Find state-by-state details from the ABA

We’ve long supported mandatory disclosure to clients.  Click here for

the submission of the legal reform group HALT to the Georgia State

Bar (Nov. 4, 2004), explaining the benefits of mandatory disclosure

rules, and the need for notifying each client or potential client. HALT

gives one statistic that would surely surprise most members of the

public — and lawyers, too — the national average of lawyers who carry

professional liability insurance is 40%.  It is no surprise that disclosure

rules have motivated many formerly “naked” lawyers to purchase pro-

fessional liability insurance. 


p.s. Arkansas is among the 8 states that still impose a Gag Rule

on complainants in disciplinary matters.  Several state supreme

courts have recently declared such rules to be unconstitutional,

including the New Jersey Court last September.  



hidden in leaves
gazing at the camellia
croaking frog






hidden in shadows
a laughing mouse…
New Year’s inventory





midday’s mosquitoes
hidden behind
the Buddha of stone



Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue







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