Implicit Association Test in Consumer Behaviour

The idea of implicit attitudes, which is defined as introspectively unidentified (or inaccurately identified) remnants of prior encounters that facilitate favourable or unfavourable feelings, thoughts, or actions towards social objects, emerged in the early 1990s as the idea that attitudes could perhaps grow as a natural consequence of non-conscious, immediate, or implicit processes gained traction. Because implicit attitudes are independent of conscious adjustment and appraisal, non-conscious processing is assumed to have a more substantial influence on them.

As a result, the divergence between openly self-reported attitudes and implicit opinions evaluated by novel techniques like the IAT is frequently observed. Although more recent theorizing contends that implicit and explicit measurements evaluate related but different entities in memory, earlier theorizing suggested that implicit and openly measured attitudes could be distinct conceptions. Whether the explicit and implicit metrics of attitude tap two different constructions or two different types of indicators of a familiar edifice (single-process theories) or whether they portray overall cultural understanding as opposed to individual attitudes has yet to be addressed in interpretations of IAT results.

An Explanation of the Implicit Attitude Test (IAT) Methodology

The IAT is an implicit measurement of the degree to which concepts or items in memory are associated with one another. To complete the IAT procedure, participants must swiftly map objects from four different categories to two keyboard shortcuts (for example, pressing "D" and "K"). As a category exemplar appears on the screen, a respondent swiftly assigns the item to the proper category by clicking the response button that corresponds to that category. The degree to which a subject can attribute the exact answer to other concepts with ease or difficulty is used to gauge how strongly such concepts are associated with memory.

Look at the product attributes IAT created to compare consumer attitudes about Coke and Pepsi. Four categories must be used for this attitude IAT, each with several examples. The target concepts refer to the two brand categories (Coke and Pepsi). The two remaining categories comprise characteristics that can be variously linked to the target concepts. The attribute categories in an attitudes IAT are pleasant and disagreeable. While IATs containing as few as two items per category have succeeded, intended notion and attribute classes typically include successful, intended notion and attribute classes typically include between 3 and 6 stimulus items (category exemplars). Examples of exemplar materials for a target feature or attribute category may be words, photos, or brand logos.

Five discriminating tasks are typically presented in a row on an IAT. Each assignment either trains the respondent in the proper reactions to a series of stimuli or gauges how quickly the subject can classify ideas and qualities when they match a response key. In the initial discrimination task, elements from the two specific abstract classes must be distinguished, for instance, by contrasting visuals of Coke and Pepsi. The amount of first test sessions frequently fluctuates with the range of stimuli units, resulting in the random order viewing of each stimulus item twice. Using terms indicating pleasant vs. unpleasant attributes as stimulus items, the second discrimination task is similar to the first.

The third differentiation task, or the initial mixed task, requires participants to classify a range of objects from both the target conception domains and the attribute categories. A standard response key is given for this task to a target concept group and an attribute group. For instance, anytime a Coke class element or a nice feature shows on the screen, subjects must immediately push a particular answer button via one hand (for instance, the "D" key with the left hand). The subject would push the other response key (for instance, the "K" key with the right hand) whenever a Pepsi classification element or a disagreeable characteristic item was given. Stimulus items are alternately presented from the two characteristic classes and the target idea, with the specific stimulus item being randomly selected from the collection of available exemplars.

The second season differentiation tests flip the appropriate solution for the objective ideas to establish a challenge capable of being examined explicitly for the preliminary combination task. The subjects practice categorizing the Coke and Pepsi target theme objects using the response buttons formerly used for the other in the fourth classification test, which is the inverted targeted concept discrimination. The reversed discriminatory task would place Pepsi on the "D" key and Coke on the "K" key if the initial target concept discrimination placed the Coke category on the "D" key and the Pepsi category on the "K" key.

This reversal aims to prepare individuals for the fifth discrimination task, the reversed combination task, by allowing them to erase the category-response key associations they learned in the initial and third discrimination tasks. The target idea categories in this final assignment are the opposite of those in the initial combined task. Tasks three and five record the crucial response latency data.

The average reaction time difference between the original combination task and the inverted combination task is used to calculate the IAT metric. The disparity in performance pace between original and reverse combined tasks serves as the foundation for the IAT metric once these aggregated response times have been transformed. The scoring method developed by Greenwald, McGhee, and Schwartz follows specific steps for data reduction, differential score computation, and IAT effect evaluation. Because it generated the most significant statistical effect sizes, this technique was selected over competing latency-based scoring systems.

IAT's Usage in Assessing Consumer Attitudes

There are numerous areas of consumer research where comparable disassociations between explicit and implicit opinions may occur. Because of societal desirability distortions, subjects may be reluctant to accurately report on constructions that have leaned on self-report assessments for descriptions of vanity, stigmatized habits, or the investigation of "dark side behaviors" like drug and alcohol use. One of the earliest applications of the IAT to such issues looked at how people's attitudes and behaviors changed in reaction to print advertisements using racial spokespersons.

When race is the subject of attitudinal measurement, prior research indicated low correlations between explicit and implicit measures, indicating that precise measurements are actively altered due to self-presentation bias or unwillingness to admit actual feelings. So, it was interesting to see if the IAT would detect prejudice against celebrities' spokespersons of a certain race. To do this, advertising that combined brand information with athletes while also manipulating the race of the star athlete was developed. Surprisingly, White respondents did not demonstrate a marked preference on self-report measures, yet showed a significant "pro-White" preference when measured with the IAT.

On the other hand, Black respondents on self-report measures revealed a preference for commercials with Black spokespersons but no substantial subconscious selection. Furthermore, whereas the converse was apparent for the self-report metrics, White respondents' implicit preference for advertising with White spokespersons was much stronger than Black respondents'. Further research confirmed a significant interaction between measurement method and ethnicity on the preference for commercials featuring spokespersons from the same ethnicity.

Predicting Consumer Behaviour with IAT

Past studies indicate that the IAT's propensity to predict behavior is erratic, with some projects demonstrating appropriate propensity and others not. IAT and explicit measures accurately predicted behavior. However, implicit measures were more robust at predicting stereotyping and discriminatory actions, according to a current systematic review of IAT psychology research that included 14 consumer behavior studies. Detailed measurements were more accurate predictors of behavior only when implicit and explicit predictions were reasonably strong

Recent studies of consumer behavior that used the IAT discovered that the IAT indeed predicts behavior. For instance, implicitly assessed self-brand identification accurately predicted purchase intent, brand choice, and perceived brand superiority. Furthermore, implicit attitudes towards the brand were the sole mediator in these associations. These findings support the idea that self-concept linkage with things directly affects the development of attitudes and behavior.

It is interesting how explicit and implicit metrics predict varied brand attitudes. When customers were pressed for time, prior implicit attitudes greatly influenced their brand choice, whereas explicitly expressed views were more diagnostic when they had more time. Similarly, Plessner and colleagues examined how time constraints affected consumers' decisions between recycled and nonrecycled writing pads. They discovered that implicit attitudes towards recycled versus nonrecycled paper were only predictive of consumers' decisions when they had a 5-second response window to meet, while explicit measures were only predictive of choices without a reaction window restriction.

These results show that people may make decisions based on unconscious connections in their memories due to cognitive resource limits since they lack the resources to engage in conscious deliberation. Vantomme and colleagues proposed that implicit negative attitudes towards "green" or eco-friendly merchandise ought to be disentangled from explicit measures of attitude towards green products and, therefore, less probable when predicting product choice. This was because it was believed that negative implicit attitudes towards green products should be conscious, not implicit when it came to consumer behavior circumstances where a detachment between explicit and implicit opinions might eventuate. Interestingly, the contrary was the case: implicit sentiments were shown to be more favorable towards green items and predicted the choice of green products.


According to recent psychological studies, memory processes that are uncontrolled and undetected have a significant impact on human behavior. Consumer behavior research has largely ignored this emerging field despite increased interest in non-conscious processes in academic psychology; reviews of the past 15 years show a concentration on research methodologies that straightforwardly tap conscious beliefs but offer little perspective into underpinning implicit processes.

Even though these ideas are crucial to the development of the discipline, they frequently ignore the potential contribution of non-conscious processes. Furthermore, if respondents lack an attitude before being measured, cannot recall an attitude, or refuse to divulge that information, the credibility of explicit measures is jeopardized. In conclusion, elucidative steps are crucial but should not be the overarching framework for illuminating consumers' latent processing, necessitating implicit measurements.

Updated on: 30-Mar-2023


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