Can Implicit Attitudes Change?

After completing the IAT last week, I began to really think about the meaning of the test itself and whether the test is a reliable measure of someone’s unconscious thoughts. This thought became even more prevalent after reading the article by Blair (2002) and also the article by Karpinski and Hilton (2001). The articles seem to support the fact that implicit attitudes may be influenced and/or changed by environmental factors and outside forces. I have always perceived the IAT as a direct measure of the implicit biases that live in our unconscious thoughts and feelings. While I have never been convinced that implicit attitudes shape behavior, I always believed that the test itself measures the thoughts that someone has beneath the surface of explicit and conscious understanding. Blair’s article, however, shows that there are many factors that may influence the attitudes of someone and that the context of a situation is a determinant in implicit attitudes. Reading the article by Blair (2002) allowed for a new understanding of how are implicit behaviors are shaped.

This being said, it now makes more sense why people receive the scores that they are given. When I took the IAT, I received a score saying that I had no automatic preference for white Americans over Black Americans. Now, as a White American, I was surprised by this result simply because I was under the impression that my implicit attitudes would reflect the attitudes that society has taught me to believe, even subconsciously. I would have expected that I would have slight or even strong automatic preferences for White Americans just based on the fact that I am White and based on the general societal beliefs. Considering my scores in a way that Blair (2002) would consider them, the scores seem to make more sense. Rather than the scores being a reflection of inherent implicit attitudes, other things such as the environment that I associate with may influence the score along with social motives, knowledge or thought about counter stereotypes, focus of attention on one aspect, and other things. There seem to a few things that can influence and even change the implicit attitudes that someone has. If this is true, what does that mean about our implicit attitudes? Are these attitudes inherent or are they attitudes that we have based on the context with which we are in? Implicit means unconscious, more or less. Does that mean that our unconscious attitudes are changeable based on a situation and does that make them less unconscious? The research shows that outsides forces can influence our attitudes, which seems to devalue the results of the IAT. If our attitudes can be changed then the results of the IAT are not necessarily accurately reflecting our unconscious thoughts or feelings.