This Harvard Test Reveals If You’re Racist (Plus, How It Works and What Your Results Mean)

Is it possible to be racist, but not entirely realize it? Harvard researchers believe some people may not be consciously aware of racial tendencies, so they developed a measure called the Implicit Association Test (IAT).

So how does the test gauge if someone is racist, especially when they proclaim not to be? Find out this surprising revelation — on page 7 — which possibly means there are more questions than answers.

1. What does the test examine?

a sea of women in front of the US capitol during the womens march

The test looks at a number of social and political issues. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

The test examines implicit attitudes toward others regarding race, gender, religion, politics, and sexuality, according to the test FAQ section. Implicit attitudes are viewpoints that are more seeded in the subconscious.

Next: Which factors are examined?

2. The test addresses this

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The test looks at different types of people. | jacoblund/Getty Images

The test evaluates the strength of concepts, evaluations, and stereotypes. Concepts include groups such as black or gay people. Evaluations are either good or bad and stereotypes are how the group is perceived.

Next: The test uses this approach to gather data.

3. Your gut instinct is tested

Business woman writing on a computer in the office

The test wants you to answer with your instincts. | Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock/Getty Images

This is how the test works. Images and basic statements are flashed on the screen, according to Vox. For instance, one side of the screen contains the statement, “press E for bad or white people.” On the other side of the screen is the statement, “press I for good or black people.” A photo of a white face sits in the middle of the screen.

Test takers must answer each screen by hitting “E” for bad or “I” for good. Statements and images are combined into different groupings, which attempts to measure the test taker’s initial reflex.

Next: This is how the test is scored.

4. How are scores generated?

Hands of Person smart casual clothing typing on Laptop

Scores are generated after several rounds of tests. |

Test takers answer several rounds of images and statement combinations to determine an implicit attitude. Bias scores are slight, moderate, or strong. So your test may show a slight bias for one group, whereas strong bias for another.

Next: Scores may possibly predict this behavior.

5. Could your score mean you are racist?

The test may predict discrimatory behavior. | Imtmphoto/iStock/Getty Images

The test may predict discriminatory behavior when it comes to hiring decisions, medical treatment, and criminal justice. However, researchers assert that while you may demonstrate a bias for one group over another, it does not necessarily mean you are prejudiced.

Next: But this is where results get confusing.

6. Is it possible to get a different score every time?

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The test is by no means perfect. | iStock/Getty Images

A writer from Vox took the test three times and got a different score every time. While the first score showed no bias, the next score showed he was slightly biased against black people. His final score showed a preference for black people.

Next: So does the test actually work?

7. This is what the test can’t truly measure

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The test is far from perfect. | Source: iStock

Ultimately, the IAT cannot truly measure individual bias, according to Vox. Why? External factors, such as an ability to quickly process information, influence the test outcome. Your mood and desire to make a good impression may also impact scores.

Next: Does the test reveal anything valuable?

8. The IAT implies this

The test can shine a light on general racial attitudes of a large group. |

Researchers assert the test best measures mass population racial attitudes rather than those on the individual level. “It can predict things in the aggregate, but it cannot predict behavior at the level of an individual” Calvin Lai, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and director of research at Project Implicit, told Vox.

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