Mental Health

The IAT: A Measure of Impulse. After I completed my IAT, a disclaimer… | by Morgen | Child & Adolescent Global Mental Health | Sep, 2021

Morgen

After I completed my IAT, a disclaimer appeared before my results, stating:

“These IAT results are provided for educational purposes only. The results may fluctuate and should not be used to make important decisions. The results are influenced by variables related to the test (e.g., the words or images used to represent categories) and the person (e.g., being tired, what you were thinking about before the IAT).”

The Harvard Implicit Association Test is a way to test implicit or unconscious associations that we may hold between two concepts. For example, the concepts of “gay and straight” and how they are associated with concepts such as “good and bad.”

The test is a quick one. It is based upon impulse — not conscious and thoughtful analysis. You are making choices in a split second. You are given two categories on the screen to the right and to the left, and grouping images and words into them. In the example priorly mentioned, the categories could be single words or groupings such as “good, good-straight, bad, bad-straight, good-gay, and bad-gay.” Then you are given other words and images that can be associated with any of the categories that pop up on the screen and you are meant to match them to the correct category as fast as you can. For example, you’d have the word “fantastic” pop-up which is associated with the category of “good.” The test would measure how quickly and accurately you can match the word to the correct category, taking into account if the category has another concept attached to it, such as “gay.”

Having completed the IAT, my personal opinion about the test is that it does what it is meant to do — it can detect implicit bias. It may reveal biases within us that we might not even be aware of. It can make us aware.

I would be wary to say that the IAT does much more than that.

Although some humans are uncontrollable and act on pure impulse… A lot of us have the chance to think before we act. I find this to be true especially in the field of psychology, with so many self-aware individuals around me. There are mental processes to be done before a decision is made. I believe that even if there is an implicit bias that can make you associate a group of people as being associated with “bad,” you can over-ride these impulses with empathy and understanding. That’s all they are — impulses.

My experience with the IAT is that it showed me an implicit bias that I have within me. It made me aware, and therefore even more able to correct myself than I already was. I also know that I am a person that acts with my heart. I act with logic and love for others even if I have some kind of unconscious bias within me — whether that be a result of the culture I am apart of, or the way that I grew up.

Our personal impulses and biases will always be there — good or bad. You choose whether or not to act on them.


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