The Four Deadly Sins of Implicit Attitude Research

In this article, we describe four theoretical and methodological problems that have impeded implicit attitude research and the popular understanding of its findings. The problems all revolve around assumptions made about the relationships among measures (indirect vs. versus direct), constructs (implicit vs. explicit attitudes), cognitive processes (e.g., associative vs. propositional), and features of processing (automatic vs. controlled). These assumptions have confused our understandings of exactly what we are measuring, the processes that produce implicit evaluations, the meaning of differences in implicit evaluations across people and contexts, the meaning of changes in implicit evaluations in response to intervention, and how implicit evaluations predict behavior. We describe formal modeling as one means to address these problems, and provide illustrative examples. Clarifying these issues has important implications for our understanding of who has particular implicit evaluations and why, when those evaluations are likely to be particularly problematic, how we might best try to change them, and what interventions are best suited to minimize the effects of implicit evaluations on behavior.

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