Almost two decades ago, researchers at Harvard University, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia launched the Project Implicit Demonstration Website, where the public could explore and experience the Implicit Association Test (IAT).
The IAT is a measure of social psychology that determines the strength of an individual’s association between mental representations of objects and concepts in their memory. Today, there are 14 different tests, ranging from racial attitudes to gender stereotypes.
Recently, Victoria local Tessa Charlesworth published the most recent research on how implicit biases have changed over time, by taking massive amount of data from the website that had almost 4.3 million participants.
Charlesworth hails from Victoria and is currently a third year doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.
In the past, there had been little evidence that implicit biases within humans could undergo durable, long term shifts, says Charlesworth. However, using data from the archives of the Implicit Association Test website, she has been able to challenge that assumption.
Charlesworth examined patterns of change in attitudes towards six different aspects: race, sexuality, skin tone, body weight, and disability between 2007 and 2016.
While some of the aforementioned attitudes have changed, others have remained stable. Participants’ perspectives on age and disability both had no observable change in the study.
“Most humbling of all was what we saw with body weight attitudes, which was that those attitudes become more biased over the past decade,” Charlesworth told Victoria Buzz.
When asked for her thoughts on why some attitudes saw change and others didn’t, Charlesworth offered the explanation that “race, sexuality and skin tone are much more common (than age or disability) in our discussions about the problem of social bias.”
If you are interested in taking the Implicit Association Test yourself, click here.