The Wall Street Journal:
People lie. We tell Aunt Linda we like her new hat. We tell a creditor that the check is in the mail. And we don’t just lie to others, we lie to ourselves: Those extra pounds look good on me. I can quit smoking anytime I want—I just don’t want to. Because we are liars, simply asking people what their innermost thoughts are can produce inaccurate results. This is particularly true for sensitive topics such as racism and bigotry. Psychologists and pollsters have long known that people will offer self-serving answers to questions about such topics and will act in ways that reveal latent biases.
One method devised for doing just that is called the Implicit Association Test (IAT), and it is the topic of “Blindspot,” by psychologists Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald. Introduced in 1998, the IAT asks people to make rapid judgments about words or pictures shown on a computer screen or sheet of paper. Half the words are positive, like “cheerful,” “honest” or “friendly,” while the other half are negative, like “dirty,” “rude” or “terrible.” You press one key for positive words and another for negative words.
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