Questioning the effectiveness of the implicit association test
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Although marketers have embraced the view that judgments and behaviours can be affected by implicit associations, heightened associations may not always manifest in behavioural shifts as the effect may be too subtle in either encouraging or discouraging such behaviours. Implicit associations, however, can become chronically accessible in memory (Bushman 1998). The accessibility of the associations means that they can influence judgments and behaviour long after the explicit memory for the ad exposure has decayed (Shacter 1987). The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a widely used method of capturing implicit attitudes and is said to be one of the most important ideological advances in the field of social cognition. The IAT has successfully been used as a measure of implicit associations for a range of topics including racial prejudice, homosexuality and prejudice against the elderly (Hugenberg and Bodenhausen 2004). These topics are sensitive and arguably difficult to reliably assess using self-report (explicit) measures; yet, implicit attitudes can be captured using the IAT (Brunel, Tietje, and Greenwald 2004). However despite its widespread use, academic opinions about the effectiveness of the implicit association test in capturing implicit associations remains divided. On one hand the IAT provides a clear and simple measure for examining implicit attitudes and constantly displays strong effects, while on the other it raises critical questions about consistency, stability and convergent validity. In an aim to provide an objective view of the use of implicit measures in consumer research, the benefits and critical questions surrounding the IAT are explored as well as a discussion of effective applications of the IAT in the study of consumer welfare.
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