Implicit vs. Explicit Beliefs: What do you really believe?

After our conversation in seminar, I have been thinking a lot about implicit versus explicit beliefs. And frankly, I find the differentiation disturbing.  The notion that I could have a belief that I am unaware of impacting my decisions is frightening. Perhaps this is so disconcerting to me because it makes me feel almost as thought I don’t have complete control over my own beliefs or actions. I recently took several quizzes on the Project Implicit website and was absolutely horrified by the results.  I consistently got results contrary to my personal beliefs. After completing the quizzes I thought, “wow, am I a really old-fashioned, horribly biased person?”

Apparently, I never knew it, but I “strongly” believe that women are associated with family and that men are associated with career.  I grew up in a family where both of my parents had careers and I personally want both a family and a full-time occupation. So what does all this mean? What is this assessment really showing? Is it telling me that I am unknowingly sexist, or that the test is not a good measure of my beliefs? Could my own value for family over career, or my familiarity with my gender influence the results?

Furthermore, how accurate are these tests? The assessment involved hitting keys as fast as I could when an image or word was associated with good or bad.  Could right or left-handed preference bias the results? As the words and orientations kept being switched around, could pure confusion or stumbling make a difference?

Returning to Seung, how do implicit thoughts and explicit thoughts differ in our connectome? How are conscious versus subconscious thoughts encoded in our brains? Perhaps the biggest question is how much does implicit thought effect our decisions and is there a way to consciously change our implicit thoughts?

I’m skeptical.

Take some quizzes for yourself!

One thought on “Implicit vs. Explicit Beliefs: What do you really believe?

  1. I took a couple of these tests yesterday! The first one I did was the female/male family/career test (according to the test I moderately associate female with family, male with career). While taking the test, I realized one of the major contributing factors to my reaction time was the order in which I had to group the words– when the categories switched, I found it difficult to relearn the sorting rule. And, interestingly, in the second test I took, when I had already adjusted to the instructions of the test and rule changes along the way, I found I slightly associate female with science and male with liberal arts. Whether these results are truly because of my subconscious thinking and experience, or because of familiarity with the test, I’m not sure. I do like that the test acknowledges these possible confounding factors in the survey section at the end!


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