Surprise, surprise, social psych tool for measuring racism doesn’t work

From Jesse Singal at New York Mag:

Perhaps no new concept from the world of academic psychology has taken hold of the public imagination more quickly and profoundly in the 21st century than implicit bias — that is, forms of bias which operate beyond the conscious awareness of individuals. That’s in large part due to the blockbuster success of the so-called implicit association test, which purports to offer a quick, easy way to measure how implicitly biased individual people are. When Hillary Clinton famously mentioned implicit bias during her first debate with Donald Trump, many people knew what she was talking about because the IAT has spread the concept so far and wide. It’s not a stretch to say that the IAT is one of the most famous psychological instruments created in recent history, and that it has been the subject of more recent fascination and acclaim than just about anything else to come out of the field of social psychology.

Unfortunately, none of that is true. A pile of scholarly work, some of it published in top psychology journals and most of it ignored by the media, suggests that the IAT falls far short of the quality-control standards normally expected of psychological instruments. The IAT, this research suggests, is a noisy, unreliable measure that correlates far too weakly with any real-world outcomes to be used to predict individuals’ behavior — even the test’s creators have now admitted as such. The history of the test suggests it was released to the public and excitedly publicized long before it had been fully validated in the rigorous, careful way normally demanded by the field of psychology. In fact, there’s a case to be made that Harvard shouldn’t be administering the test in its current form, in light of its shortcomings and its potential to mislead people about their own biases. More.

Look, all the test needs to do is provide shakedown for the race grievance industry. It wouldn’t matter how the results are derived. In a post-fact science world where objectivity is sexist or even an instance of white supremacy, can’t they just make the results up, apply for grants, and call it a day?

See also: New: First Things on March for Science, cites junk DNA as reason not to trust “consensus”


All sides agree: progressive politics is strangling social sciences