Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

2008 Action Teaching Award: Honorable Mention

SPN Action Teaching Award    The Social Psychology Network Action Teaching Award entry below received Honorable Mention in 2008. Instructors are welcome to use or adapt this material for their own classes, provided the use is noncommercial and appropriate credit is given to the Honorable Mention recipient.

For additional details, please see the SPN Action Teaching Award home page.

Honorable Mention
Title: Project Implicit Demonstration Site
Submitted by: Brian A. Nosek (University of Virginia)
Category: Web-based resource
For students/learners in: Graduate school, college, high school, grade school, work settings, other
Objective(s): To provide hands-on experience with the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a popular measure of implicit associations, as an opportunity for self-discovery about the potential dissociation of our implicit and explicit thoughts, beliefs, and values, especially with regard to intergroup relations


Project ImplicitThe Project Implicit web site features the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a popular measure that can reveal associations distinct from the attitudes people report holding. The IAT is most often used as an implicit measure of attitudes and stereotypes about social groups, and the IAT demonstration web site uses an action teaching approach modeled after an interactive museum exhibit.

Visitors to the site can learn about the theory and measurement of implicit associations by taking tests related to race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or even stereoptypes about "who is American." After taking an IAT, visitors receive personalized feedback with comparative information about how others performed, and they are presented with details about how the IAT works, what is known and not yet known about the IAT, and how best to interpret the results (e.g., the test does not reveal "true" attitudes that invalidate self-reports, but simply provide a different way to measure associations).

The site's educational information is organized so that visitors can read a brief synopsis of the main message, view more extensive commentaries (e.g., on IAT interpretation, validity, and confounding influences), or access empirical research findings. Visitors whose questions are not answered by the online materials are also able to communicate directly with members of the principal laboratories through an email address provided for feedback and questions.

The Project Implicit Demonstration Site is designed to be self-contained so that visitors can learn without classroom instruction or training in psychology. Nonetheless, learning is enhanced when students follow up their test experience with discussions about the nature and meaning of implicit bias. Teachers in high school and college, diversity educators in government and corporate settings, and public interest groups are all welcome to use the web site in their teaching and learning activities.

Tips on Implementation

Discussion about implicit bias must be handled sensitively because there is substantial opportunity for misunderstanding. In my experience, the IAT often provokes vigorous student discussion about research methodology as well as the nature of stereotypes, intergroup attitudes, and unconscious thought processes. Here, for example, are a few discussion questions that instructors might use to stimulate discussion and critical thinking:

  1. Is there something about the IAT design that leads to the results, or does the IAT reveal something about mental associations that we might not be aware of?

  2. If the IAT reveals something different than what we say, does that mean we're lying? Hiding our "real" feelings? Something else?

  3. Where do implicit biases come from?

  4. If we're conscious and can choose how we act, why would having implicit biases matter?

Teachers can prepare for these discussions by exploring the following pages:

These resources offer supplementary overviews on how to use the IAT for teaching and research, and they include freely downloadable papers summarizing IAT research and areas of controversy. Of course, students can also be encouraged to find answers themselves by visiting these sites, taking the IAT, and challenging each other with evidence and findings that address various ideas.

In Conclusion

The Project Implicit Demonstration Site was launched in September of 1998 and attracts a diverse group of visitors from countries around the world. Consistent with an action teaching approach, it educates visitors about implicit social biases at the same time that it teaches about psychological research and behavioral science methods.

Presently, more than 20,000 IATs are completed in an average week -- over 6 million IATs since the site was first released. With a team of international collaborators, the demonstration web site has now been translated into 16 languages, and an accompanying IAT Research web site allows visitors to participate in active research projects. These ongoing research projects are also designed to have educational value, teaching about implicit biases while offering an interactive opportunity to see how psychological research is conducted.


Note: This work is a collaborative project of the laboratories of Brian Nosek, Tony Greenwald, Mahzarin Banaji, and a large group of international collaborators.

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