“Unscientific” Implicit Bias

Steele Coddington

Recently, Heather MacDonald, one of this country’s most authoritative informants on the vast implications of racism, and an unequalled investigative reporter, wrote a significantly informative article in the Wall Street Journal. It disclosed new evaluations dispelling the “scientific” legitimacy of psychology tests involving “Implicit Bias.” Such tests were introduced in 1998 by psychologists as “Implicit association tests” (IATs) that could reveal unconscious roots of racial prejudice. They have gained acceptability and with endorsements from Obama and Hillary Clinton have become a major consulting industry that can predict discriminatory behavior.

With details too complex to fully cover here, some of the variations involved computer responses by the test-taker to pictures of black and white faces along with favorable and unfavorable words. The difference between responses, timing, reactions and other factors ultimately provided, “unconscious and pervasive predilections to discriminate.,” and racial disparities.

Their tests have been widely used as valid measures that can enable personnel decisions to be challenged based on an outcome of implicit bias and therefore represent back-up needed to support the left’s universal fixation on “equal outcome.” The conflict of course directly affects the idea and rational of “equal opportunity.”

The infallibility of such tests as “scientific” however has been debunked and that will affect their use by many consulting firms, universities and government entities. The faults involve many misunderstandings of terminology, cognitive difficulties, alternative meanings and racial familiarities etc, etc, etc. As a consequence the founders have been compelled to “admit that IAT does not predict ‘biased behavior'”. This has to limit the utilization of the test as a means of predicting bias, which has been widely applied by Federal law enforcement units, and others mentioned above.

Its use is now inappropriate in many settings and was condemned in an article recently in National Review entitled “Classes of Kindergarteners.” The author told of the use and influence of elements of IAT fundamentals in a particular Chicago private school’s curriculum and the descriptive consequences. The major question is the appropriateness of politicization

of the IAT to begin with, and its non-scientific legitimacy for schools. The authors too, cited one of the co-founders saying there is, “Very little evidence that changes in implicit bias have anything to do with changes in a person’s behavior.” The importance of noting the ineffectiveness of the IAT is that as a racial bias indicator it detracts from programs that have real efficacy in addressing racial bias and inequality.

Heather MacDonald, bless her, is as always in her article able to address racial matters with an intellectual honesty and understanding that promotes ideas that if more intensively advocated would add reality to the entire subject. (Especially on Law Enforcement).

She ends her article explaining that the IAT is a side show and instead of delving into the unconscious we need to address socioeconomic disparities. That means “differences in cultural values. family structure, interests and abilities.” “The main obstacles to racial equality now lie not in bias but culture and behavior.”