Your data suggest a slight automatic preference for Old compared to Young.

Oh Lord, miracles do happen!  I remembered.  I remembered what I forgot yesterday.  I was going to blog about the IAT yesterday, but since I forgot, I’ll do it today.

Lemme start with this: Do you prefer white people or black people?  That might sound like a really rude question or a really dumb one.  Either way, the answer most people will probably give is something along the lines of, “I prefer neither because everyone is equal.”  But, there are several reasons someone might give this answer.  He/she might 1) actually believe in equality, 2) be secretly racist, or 3) only think he/she is above racism.  The Implicit Association Test “measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report.”

I’m afraid I might be confusing in my description, so here’s an example.  I took the Young-Old IAT a few minutes ago and it (supposedly) determined whether I associated young or old people with either good or bad.  I was presented with both pictures (of old and young people) and words (good words like “wonderful” and “love,” and bad words like “horrible” and “evil”) that I had to sort into two different categories.  The first category was young and good.  The second category was old and bad.  So, I sorted the pictures and words as quickly as I could and I did make quite a lot of mistakes.  Then I had to do it again, but this time the categories were switched.  The first category was young and bad.  The second was old and good.

Basically, the more associated two concepts are the faster you will be able to correctly categorize them.  According to the test, I have a slight automatic preference for Old people compared to Young people.  This means that I was probably faster at putting things into the Old/Good category than the Old/Bad category.  It’s all about split second decisions.  If I hesitate 1/100,000,000 of a second it could say a lot about what my subconscious is actually thinking.

Here's the break down.  I'm only in the 4% group.

Here's the break down. I'm only in the 4% group.

More people associate young people with good and associate old people with bad.  And that sounds horrible, doesn’t it?  Old people are important!  But, don’t be offended just yet.  The association is probably one you make subconsciously because we live in a society where it is much more desirable to be young.  And since we usually associate being old with negative things like declining physical and mental performance we will associate old with bad.  In fact, even older people show the same strong automatic preference for Young people compared to Old people!

Now, going back to the race question.  You can probably guess.  Most people have an automatic preference for White people compared to Black people.  It’s all about the subconscious and the subliminal messages we receive.  On the other hand Black participants are much more varied in their preference, but there are still some that have a strong automatic White preference.  It’s strange business.   But, maybe now that Obama is president this will change.

There are a lot of other tests you can take for free, just click on the demonstration button. Here are some of the ones I find the most interesting: 

  • Sexuality This IAT requires the ability to distinguish words and symbols representing gay and straight people. It often reveals an automatic preference for straight relative to gay people. 
  • Asian American This IAT requires the ability to recognize White and Asian-American faces, and images of places that are either American or Foreign in origin. 
  • Gender- This IAT often reveals a relative link between liberal arts and females and between science and males.
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