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Intercultural communication and leadership

Intercultural communication: Implicit bias

What is the theory behind these tests and how does implicit bias work?

According to the FAQ section of the HIAT, "the HIAT asks you to pair two concepts (e.g., young and good, or elderly and good). The more closely associated the two concepts are, the easier it is to respond to them as a single unit. So, if young and good are strongly associated, it should be easier to respond faster when you are asked to give the same response (i.e. The 'E' or 'I' key) to these two" (FAQ, 2013, HIAT). On the test I took, 'European-American' and 'American' were first paired together versus 'Asian-American' and 'Foreign' when I was shown a series of images and faces: then the two concepts were reversed so 'European-American' and 'Foreign' were paired together and 'Asian-American' and 'American' were paired together. I apparently took longer to identify faces and images when 'Asian-American' and 'American' were displayed, versus 'Asian-American' and 'Foreign,' which, according to the test, reveals implicit bias.

Q2. After taking the Harvard Implicit Association Test what have you learned about yourself?

According to the results: "Your data suggest a moderate association of European-American with American and Asian-American with Foreign compared to Asian-American with American and European-American with Foreign." This suggests even though I do not consciously associate being an American with being of a particular ethnic heritage, many images and subtly-communicated messages still affect my subconscious and this could have an impact upon how I view the world. I think it is very difficult not to have some bias: when the image of a generic 'American' comes to mind, the media still tends to depict someone who is Caucasian, even though the U.S. is (statistically speaking) a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society.

Q3. How do you explain any biases if the tests show that you have some? If you do not have any biases as revealed from taking the Harvard tests, how and why do you think this is the case?

Initially, I thought this was because of the order in which the concepts were presented to me. But according to the FAQ section on the website: "the order in which tests are administered does make a difference to the overall result in some tests. However, the difference is small and recent changes to the test have sharply reduced the influence of order. Because of this order effect, the orders used for IATs presented on this website are assigned at random. For any data we present, we are careful to be sure that half the test-takers got the a then B. order and the other half got the B. then a order. With the revised task design, the order has only a minimal influence on task performance" (FAQ, 2013, HIAT). Thus, clearly I am not the first person to make this assumption about test order.

Naturally, I was quite upset to receive these results at first. However, upon reflection, I do not think the implied meaning is that I am prejudiced against Asian-Americans, but that I have subconsciously picked upon the prejudices of my culture in terms of media images. Even though I myself do not resemble the stereotypical 'Barbie' or 'Ken'-like image of an American, I still am immersed in a culture that associates physical, WASPY perfection with America. But these images do not necessarily mean I harbor prejudice in my heart against Asian-Americans or believe that these media images are fair and justified.

Q4. If the tests demonstrated that you may have some bias, how do you intend to reduce or eliminate it?

I will try to be more mindful about the way in which I consume the media to which I am exposed, and try to consciously question images of 'typical Americanness' when I see them on the news, in advertising, and…