Tag Archives: Implicit Association Test

Knowing without Knowing – Implicit Learning in Action

Lyn Abramson

Lyn Abramson

Implicit learning – knowing without conscious awareness – has positive effects like accelerating foreign language learning and developing more secure computer authentication systems.
It also has negative consequences like prejudiced, biased decision-making.
All of these effects require sufficient sleep to enable memory consolidation of implicit learning.

Patricia Devine

Patricia Devine

When implicit learning leads to inaccurate beliefs about others, the result is often prejudiced behavior.
In contrast,  when biased perceptions are about one self, they can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, or grandiosity, according to University of Wisconsin’s William T. L. Cox, Lyn Abramson and Patricia Devine with Steven Hollon of Vanderbilt.

Brian Nosek

Brian Nosek

A validated way to identify hidden beliefs about race, age, gender, weight, and more is the Implicit Association Test, developed by University of Virginia’s Brian Nosek, Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard and University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald.

Mahzarin Banaji

Mahzarin Banaji

Banaji and Greenwald’s popular book provides numerous examples of frequently used thinking short cuts that lead to biased beliefs, decisions, judgments, and behaviors.

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Similarly, most people make quick assessments of others based on appearance using habitual strategies that don’t account for perceptual limitations, noted journalist Joseph Hallinan, who summarized research on bias, misperceptions, and judgment errors.

Joseph Hallinan

Joseph Hallinan

He cited the impact of situational framing on decision making:  When a decision option is posed as a potential gain, most people are less inclined to take risky decisions.
However, they are more willing to take risks if the option is positioned as a possible loss.

Kara Morgan-Short

Kara Morgan-Short

Implicit language learning was demonstrated by “immersion” listening to multiple native speakers.
University of Illinois at Chicago’s Kara Morgan-Short teamed with Karsten Steinhauer of McGill University and Georgetown’s Cristina Sanz and Michael T. Ullman to conduct brain scans on these language learners, and found they showed “native-like language processing.”
By contrast, explicit grammar training did not improve language learning.

Karsten Steinhauer

Karsten Steinhauer

Likewise, implicit learning principles can increase computer security authentication, useful in high-security nuclear plants or military facilities that usually require the code-holder to be physically present.

Cristina Sanz

Cristina Sanz

Security can be compromised when attackers:

  • Steal the user’s hardware token,
  • Fake the user’s identify through biometrics,
  • Coerce the victim into revealing the secret key or password (“rubber hose cryptanalysis”).
Hristo Bojinov

Hristo Bojinov

Unconscious knowledge” is a highly secure approach to biometrics authentication, demonstrated by Stanford University’s Hristo Bojinov and Dan Boneh, collaborating with Daniel Sanchez and Paul Reber of Northwestern and SRI’s Patrick Lincoln.

They included implicit learning principles in a computer game to subliminally deliver a security password without the user’s conscious awareness of the password.

Paul Reber

Paul Reber

Players “intercepted” falling objects in one of six non-random positions on a computer game screen by pressing a key corresponding to the screen position.
The game repeated a hidden sequence of 30 successive positions more than 100 times during game play.

Players made fewer errors when they encountered this sequence on successive rounds, suggesting they implicitly learned the sequence.
Skill re-tests after two weeks demonstrated that players retained this learned skill, but they were unable to consciously reconstruct or recognize fragments of the planted code sequence.

Patrick Lincoln

Patrick Lincoln

Team Bojinov’s implicit learning game demonstrated a new method of highly secure authentication that resists “rubber hose cryptanalysis” by implicitly training the user to enact the password without conscious knowledge of the code.
Their new project analyzes the rate of forgetting implicitly learned passwords and optimal frequency of security authentication refresher sessions.

However, this innovation in security authentication is dependent on the authenticator having sufficient sleep to consolidate implicit learning in memory, found Innsbruck Medical University’s Stefan Fischer, I. Wilhelm, and J. Born, who examined sleep’s impact on implicit memory formation in children ages 7- 11 and 12 young adults between ages 20 and 30.

Fischer’s team measured serial reaction time task before and after eight implicit learning sessions concentrated on rules underlying grammatical and non-grammatical language structures.
Most volunteer responded quickly, demonstrating implicit rule understanding, even though they couldn’t explain why their performance improved.

When adult participants had an interval of sleep between training sessions, their response times were quicker.
In contrast, well-rested children did not show a similar performance improvement, suggesting that sleep actually interferes with implicit performance gains among children.

Implicit learning can boost performance, seemingly “effortlessly,” but requires sufficient sleep to consolidate longer term performance improvements.
These findings are another argument against sleep deprivation in “Crunch Time” all-night work marathons.

-*How do you capitalize on implicit learning to improve performance?

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Men Negotiate More Assertively with Women Managers

Ekaterina Netchaeva

Ekaterina Netchaeva

Men volunteers negotiated more assertively with women in supervisory roles in laboratory tasks, compared with strategies they used with male supervisors, reported Bocconi University’s Ekaterina Netchaeva, Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern University, and Washington State University’s Leah D. Sheppard.

Maryam Kouchaki

Maryam Kouchaki

This cross-gender negotiation trend was reduced when woman in supervisory roles demonstrated directness and proactivity (“administrative agency”) rather than self-promotion and power-seeking (“ambitious agency”).

The team told 52 male and 24 female volunteers that they would negotiate their salary at a new job in a computer exercise with a male or female hiring manager.

Leah D. Sheppard

Leah D. Sheppard

After the negotiation, participants completed an implicit threat test by identifying words that appeared on a computer screen for a fraction of a second in a variation of the Implicit Association Test developed by Harvard’s Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald of University of Washington.
Participants who chose more threat-related words like “fear” or “risk,” were inferred to feel more threatened.

Mahzarin Banaji

Mahzarin Banaji

Male participants who negotiated with a female manager selected more threat-related words on implicit association test, and they negotiated for a higher salary ($49,400 average), compared to men negotiating with a male manager ($42,870 average).

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

The manager’s gender didn’t affect female participants, who negotiated a lower salary ($41,346 average), reflecting a common trend where women tend not to negotiate, or to negotiate less vigorously, as noted by Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock and Hannah Riley Bowles of Harvard.

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

In another experimental task, more than 65 male volunteers decided how to share a $10,000 bonus with a male or female team member or with supervisor.
Male participants tended to equally divided the money with male or female team members, but reacted significantly differently with a female supervisor.

Men who endorsed more threat-related words chose to keep more money for themselves when the supervisor was female, compared with when they were paired with a male supervisor.

Hannah Riley Bowles

Hannah Riley Bowles

A related online survey of 226 male and 144 female volunteers found that male participants decided to keep a larger share of the $10,000 bonus when the female manager was described as ambitious or power-seeking, but responded significantly more favorably when the female supervisor was described as proactive or ambitious.
In the latter case, male volunteers offered approximately the same bonus amount to female managers.

This suggests that women managers with male direct-reports enhance these relationships by adopting a consciously direct leadership style, characterized by consistent communication, and proactive problem-solving.

Netchaeva’s group posits that women who adopt a direct, active leadership style reduce threat in cross-gender reporting relationships, and enable greater cooperation in bargaining and negotiation situations.

-*To what extend have you observed evidence of implicit threat responses in cross-gender workplace reporting relationships?

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Recalling Supportive Relationships Can Reduce Dislike of Outsiders

Animosity toward perceived outsiders remains a powerful driver of political attitudes and aggressive behavior toward out-groups, even in diverse societies.

Muniba Saleem

Muniba Saleem

However, intergroup discord can be reduced by recalling times of connection to supportive others, found University of Michigan’s Muniba Saleem collaborating with Sara Prot, Ben C. P. Lam and Craig A. Anderson of Iowa State, plus Harvard’s Mina Cikara and Margareta Jelic University of Zagreb.

John Bowlby

John Bowlby

Their study is based on observations by John Bowlby of London’s Child Guidance clinic and his protégée, University of Virginia’s Mary Ainsworth, that healthy social and emotional functioning depends on healthy attachment to at least one reliably supportive person in childhood.

Mary Ainsworth

Mary Ainsworth

Saleem’s team confirmed that evoking early positive memories of attachment can modify aggressive thoughts and behaviors based on fear and insecurity, particularly among those strongly identified with their in-group.

Muzafer Sherif

Muzafer Sherif

This approach proved more effective than earlier prejudice-reduction techniques requiring different groups to work together on shared goals such as in Muzafer Sherif’s Robber’s Cave experiment with University of Oklahoma colleagues O. J. Harvey, B. Jack White, William R. Hood, and Carolyn W. Sherif.
Saleem’s intervention produced more robust attitude change because it  reduced fear that can lead to aggression.

Muzafer Sherif - Robber's Cave

Team Tasks at Robber’s Cave

In Team Saleem’s experiments, more than 275 people from University of Michigan had the opportunity to undermine counterparts from a rival school, Ohio State, with no negative personal consequences.

Sara Prot

Sara Prot

Participants completed surveys of their propensity for attachment anxiety and avoidance of close relationships.
Then, half described someone “who loves and accepts you in times of need” while the remaining volunteers described a person “who lives in your neighborhood, but you do not know well.”

Craig Anderson

Craig Anderson

Next, University of Michigan participants assigned 11 puzzles of varying difficulty to an Ohio State student, who could win a $25 gift card by completing all the puzzles within 10 minutes.
University of Michigan volunteers could reduce the likelihood of the OSU student winning the gift card by assigning more challenging puzzles.

Mina Cikara

Mina Cikara

Those who strongly identified with University of Michigan and who were primed to think about the close, loving personal relationship were significantly less likely to assign difficult puzzles.
This result suggests that the positive emotional memory reduced the impulse to undermine a rival’s positive outcome even with a strong in-group preference.

In a related study, more than 260 Americans recalled one of several situations:

  • Someone close was available, supportive, and loving,
  • Typical, uneventful workday,”
  • When you accomplished a meaningful goal.”
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Saleem’s team tested related scenarios closer to current geo-political concerns:  Volunteers in the US reported their reactions to the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Their descriptions included “angry,” “disgusted,” and “fearful.”

Finally, participants indicated their degree of support for “militaristic and aggressive policies intended to counter terrorism,” such as “I think it is OK to bomb an entire country if it is known to harbor ISIS terrorists.”

Gordon Moskowitz

Gordon Moskowitz

Volunteers prompted to recall a secure attachment were less likely to support military and aggressive measures against ISIS members and demonstrated significantly reduced negative stereotypes and negative emotions.

This effect was not due to increase positive mood because participants who recalled the positive experience of accomplishing an important goal responded significantly more aggressively.

Irmak Olcaysoy Okten

Irmak Olcaysoy Okten

Though promising, the impact of this work may be limited to those who have the advantage of experiencing close, secure relationships.
People who have missed these experiences are more likely to express prejudice, lack of remorse for aggression toward others.
In addition, cross-school rivalry and fears of terrorists are at least partially condoned, whereas racial and cultural prejudices are socially unacceptable to many.

As a result of social disapproval, some prejudices becomes implicit or unconscious.
They can be detected only through indirect measures such as the Implicit Association Test, and more recently, by evidence of biased time perception accompanying racial prejudice.

Cynthia Gooch

Cynthia Gooch

For example, White people who were concerned about appearing racially prejudiced were asked to judge the length of time they viewed faces of White men and Black men.
These White volunteers thought that time passed 10% more slowly than measured by clock time: They reported viewing faces of Black men for longer than they actually had, found Lehigh University’s Gordon B. Moskowitz and Irmak Olcaysoy Okten with Cynthia M. Gooch of Temple University.

Perceptual bias about time is also relevant to high stakes situations including perceived duration of job interviews for candidates of a different race than the interviewer, and physicians’ perception of the length of medical encounters.

This intergroup perceptual bias also can have significant consequences when white police officers’ estimate the duration of an encounter with a suspect of another race, and when they determine lethal force should be initiated.

First Person Shooter Task

First Person Shooter Task

This research reinforces the importance of early and later supportive relationships in reducing bias, subtle undermining, and over aggression toward other groups

-*How do you reduce prejudice and aggression across work teams?

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Paradoxical Bias against Innovative Ideas in the Workplace

Jennifer Mueller

Jennifer Mueller

Managers’ implicit attitudes and cognitive “mindset” during proposal presentations can bias organizational decision-makers against innovative solutions without their awareness, according to University of San Diego’s Jennifer Mueller with Shimul Melwani of University of North Carolina and Cornell University’s Jack Goncalo.

Shimul Melwani

Shimul Melwani

Mueller and team pointed out a paradox:  Most managers say they want innovative solutions to workplace issues from team members, yet often reject these creative ideas to reduce risk and uncertainty.

The team asked volunteers to rate a running shoe equipped with nanotechnology that improved fit and reduced potential to develop blisters.

Jack Goncalo

Jack Goncalo

They “primed” some participants toward increased uncertainty in this task by telling them that there were many potential answers to a problem.
In contrast, they cued another group with reduced uncertainty by instructing them that a problem required a single solution.

When volunteers who said they favored creative ideas experienced uncertainty, they preferred concepts of practicality on an implicit word association test, and associated “creativity” with negative concepts including “vomit,” “poison” and “agony.”

Uncertain participants also rated the shoe as significantly less creative than those in the more structured condition, suggesting that were less able to recognize a creative idea and held an unconscious “negative bias against creativity.”

Cheryl Wakslak

Cheryl Wakslak

In more recent work, Mueller collaborated with University of Southern California’s Cheryl Wakslak and Viswanathan Krishnan with University of California, San Diego to expand the idea assessment scenario with two ideas that were independently rated as “creative,” and two ideas judged “not creative.”

Vish Krishnan

Vish Krishnan

Mueller, Wakslak and Krishnan cued some participants to consider “why” in evaluating creative ideas, to evoke broad, abstract thinking, and “high-level construal.
They instructed other volunteers to think about “how” creative idea works, to stimulate narrow focus on practical details and logistics, and “low-level construal.”

Although participants in both groups rated two non-creative ideas similarly, those who adopted a “high-level construal” or a “why” mindset recognized creative ideas more often than those using the “how” mindset.

As an idea’s degree of creativity increases, uncertainty also increases about its feasibility, acceptability, and practicality.
This increased risk may reduce evaluators’ willingness to accept and advocate for an innovative idea, even when objective evidence is presented to validate a creative idea.

To mitigate the paradoxical rejection of creative ideas, organizational leaders can ask team members to consider “why” when creative evaluating proposals to enable “big picture” thinking and a broader construal level.

-*How do you encourage innovative solutions to work challenges?

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