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Twenty Years after Implicit Association Test: The Role of Implicit Social Cognition in Human Behavior

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Social psychologists believe that if memories that are not accessible to awareness can influence our actions, associations can also influence our attitudes and behavior. Thus, measures that tap into individual differences in associations of concepts need to be developed. It entitles us to the possibility of ...

Social psychologists believe that if memories that are not accessible to awareness can influence our actions, associations can also influence our attitudes and behavior. Thus, measures that tap into individual differences in associations of concepts need to be developed. It entitles us to the possibility of perceiving attitudes which cannot be measured by explicit methods, such as self-report, as there is a lack of awareness or social desirability bias.

The Implicit Association Test (IAT), which is a measure designed to detect the strength of a person's automatic association between mental representations of objects (concepts) in memory, was introduced in 1998 by Greenwald, McGhee, and Schwartz. Within a few years after the publication, the IAT had established validity as a general method for measuring relative association strengths. A large number of variants of the IAT (e.g., Single-Target Implicit Association Test, ST-IAT) and new techniques (e.g., Affect Misattribution Procedure, AMP) followed, which have been expanded far beyond social psychology to diverse applications (e.g., medical treatment).

However, a growing body of evidence (e.g., Process Dissociation Procedure, PDP) challenges the assumption that implicit attitude change is driven only by associative processes. Even the idea that implicit and explicit processes are subserved by distinct and exclusive processing systems is contradicted by recent neuroscientific findings (e.g. ERP and fMRI studies on mentalizing). The increasing popularity of implicit measures and their application to practical problems thus magnifies the consequences of misunderstanding what the measures are, how they operate, and how to change the underlying processes that contribute to implicit attitudes and their behavioral consequences. We cannot say that this is an era that implicit measures declines, but this is an era in which implicit social cognition faces more challenges, to say the least.

This Research Topic welcomes submissions focused on empirical, methodological issues as well as opinion or perspectives from a wide range of domains to provide the evidentiary basis on how (or when) implicit social cognition influences behavior, including questions, but not limited to:
• To what extent IAT effect reflects associative processes?
• To what degree the associative processes related to attitudinal components?
• What could be the conditions in which implicit cognitions form and change or predict behavior?
• What is the interaction between implicit and explicit processes like?
• Do the dual processes imply distinct neural or brain networks?
• What taxonomies of implicit or automatic content can be used to develop and explain theory?
• What innovations to measurements can help take advantage of key operative processes, and minimize the impact of extraneous factors of measurements?


Keywords: Memory, Implicit social cognition, attitude, underlying processes, neural networks


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