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How the IAT works

The Implicit Association Test attempts to measure "implicit prejudices" – subconscious attitudes, those that lie outside of our awareness and may contradict our conscious ideas about equality and fairness. In one test designed to measure implicit attitudes about age, for example, subjects sit at a computer while a series of words and images flash by on the screen. First, they are asked to tap a key on the left side of the keyboard when they see a young face or a ''good'' word (joy, sunshine, love) and to tap a key on the right side when they see an old face or a ''bad'' word (vomit, bomb, agony) – moving through the sequence as quickly as possible. Then, the groupings are reversed, with ''good'' words paired with old faces and ''bad'' words paired with young faces. The researchers then tabulate the differences in response times on the two sequences. Test takers who take longer to complete the sequence pairing good with old are said to have an ''implicit bias'' favoring old over young.

Variations on the test measure attitudes on everything from race to gender to politics. So far, say the researchers at the Harvard-based Project Implicit, tests of thousands of people yield some striking results: Eighty percent of all respondents implicitly favor young over old, 75 percent of white respondents implicitly favor white over black, and more than 70 percent across the board favor straight people over gay people.

Do you want to know how you score? Visit https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit and take a sample test.

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Invisible bias
A group of psychologists claim a test can measure prejudices we harbor without even knowing it. Their critics say they are politicizing psychology. (By Chris Berdik, Boston Globe)
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