October 8, 1998
33,000 Web tests show unconscious roots of racism, ageism
People have taken more than 33,000 tests that measure unconscious components of prejudice and stereotyping in the first week since twin Web sites were opened to the public by psychologists from the University of Washington and Yale University.
One of the Web tests measures automatic racial preference for white or black. Of the more than 10,000 who took this test, 80 percent showed a preference for white over black. Fifty percent exhibited this preference at a statistically strong level.
The sites were created with four short tests that measure unconscious roots of racism, ageism, gender stereotyping and self-esteem. A fifth test, measuring academic preferences for arts or mathematics was added later. People can take the tests by logging onto the sites at http://depts.washington.edu/iat/ or www.yale.edu/implicit/.
The Web tests are a spinoff of a psychological tool called the Implicit Association Test created by University of Washington psychology professor Anthony Greenwald and developed in collaboration with Mahazarin Banaji, a Yale psychology professor. The test measures unconscious or automatic associations, including those that underlie prejudice and stereotyping.
Even stronger than the race-preference findings were the results for about 4,000 age-preference tests that showed 90 percent with an automatic preference for young over old. Seventy-five percent showed this at the statistically strong level. The most popular test on the Web site, slightly edging the race test, is the self-esteem test, which showed that most people have automatic preference for “me” relative to “them.”
“These tests offer people a do-it-yourself opportunity to measure their automatic race, age and gender associations,” said Greenwald. “Probably a large proportion of people visiting do not consider themselves to be prejudiced and they are taking the tests to learn about these ordinarily hidden associations that in some cases could produce unintended discriminatory behavior.”
Greenwald said he and his colleagues also are receiving a steady volume of e-mail from visitors to the sites with reactions that include a very small number of obscenities and somewhat more disbelief and rejection of the interpretations of the tests, along with expressions of surprise and appreciation for learning about previously submerged thought processes.