When deciding between choices, people usually feel as if they’re completely in control. They evaluate the criteria and weigh the available information before committing. And when that information doesn’t seem to tip the balance, they report that they are undecided. But psychologists know that decision-making is strongly affected by the unconscious mind. Might the unconscious mind of an undecided person already know what it will choose?
The answer is “Yes.” By using an implicit associations test, the researchers were able to predict the undecideds decisions with 70% accuracy.
So is this news to any feminist who has watched supposedly neutral people decide admissions, prizes or jobs? Probably not. But there are at least two points here worth noting: Now when a colleague talks about neurtrality, we can whip out Science! And it’s strong and recent evidence that the implicit association tests are connected to actual decisions.
For standard implicit association tests, try here.
(Note: for accuracy’s sake, I should note that the Times reports the study as principally concerned with the difference between people who could decide on examining the evidence and those whom the evidence left undecided. I read the report just as I was thinking of how I could convince a group of people to take seriously the idea that they might really be bigots (of the nicest, least conscious sort, of course). Hence, my take concerns evidence of bias of which one is not aware.)
**This is a press release; an editorial and the actual study require subscription or library access.