My implicit biases

It turns out, according to the implicit bias test, that I have a “moderate association between male and career.” So, what does this mean? I don’t know. My wife has always had a more “serious” career than me. She makes more money than I do. I do more of the housework and more of the child care. Yet “implicitly,” I associate “male” with “career” and not “family.”

You can go ahead and try the test for yourself, or you can read on for “spoilers.” What the test does is present a sequence of terms which you’re supposed to rapidly associate with “male” or “female” and “family” or “career.” The tricky part comes when the two tasks are combined, and now we must associate words with “male or family” and “female or career” and finally “female or family” and “male or career.” If we can categorize “male or career” faster than “female or career,” then we have an association between male and career. In short, we are sexist pigs.

I’ve heard of this “implicit bias” or “implicit knowledge” testing before, and I understand that it can be quite powerful. I suspect these tools might be even more effective when combined with other measures. For example, if I had ever had a job with hiring authority, we could compare my hiring practices with my implicit bias — as it turns out, I have, and I hired women about 2 to 1 over men. (Before you get all Larry Summers on me, this hiring pattern correlates pretty well to the applicant pool. Publishing, y’know.)

Remember, too, that I’m just a single example, and a weird one at that. I also spent some time being confused about the interface for the experiment, so that may have skewed my results (if you get the wrong answer, you’re supposed to immediately correct yourself, but the instructions aren’t clear on that point).

All that aside, my results correspond quite well to the results of everyone else. Am I just making excuses for my real biases? And what do I care whether I match “business” with “male or career” faster than “female or career”? As Hit and Run points out, the Washington Post has a good article on the research as well.

Update: Scalzi’s blogging on the same thing, but he took the “race” test. He’s got some interesting things to say about the Wal-Mart/Target Gap.

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