Experimenter Characteristics, Social Desirability, and the Implicit Association Test

Benjamin Berry, John Carroll University


The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a test designed to measure attitudes at the level of automatic, unconscious associations. The IAT has largely been shown to be effective in eliminating the ability of test takers to alter their scores toward a socially desirable outcome through intentional, conscious cognitive processing. Some limited evidence also suggests, however, that IAT scores are influenced by the characteristics of an experimenter, much like many explicit tests – an effect usually explained in terms of social desirability. The present study is intended to illustrate and resolve this apparent conflict in the literature. Results suggest that the IAT is, in fact, susceptible to an experimenter characteristics effect, and it is argued that this effect is not caused by conscious cognitive processing.