June 22, 2009

Unconscious bias confirmed in test

About 70 percent of people who took a version of a test that measures racial attitudes had an unconscious preference for white people, U.S. researchers said.

The study, published the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, showed the Implicit Association Test, a psychological tool, has validity in predicting behavior and, in particular, that it has significantly greater validity than self-reports in the socially sensitive topics of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and age.

Study leader Anthony Greenwald of the University of Washington said the researchers analyzed 122 published and unpublished reports of 184 different research studies. In this analysis, 85 percent of the studies also included self-reporting measures of the type generally used in surveys.

In socially sensitive areas, especially black-white interracial behavior, the test had significantly greater predictive value than self-reports, Greenwald said in a statement.

The research looked at studies covering nine different areas -- consumer preference, black-white interracial behavior, personality differences, clinical phenomena, alcohol and drug use, non-racial intergroup behavior, gender and sexual orientation, close relationships and political preferences.