Replacing the Implicit Association Test in the Service of Feminist Pedagogy

Proceedings of The 3rd Global Conference on Women’s Studies

Year: 2022



Replacing the Implicit Association Test in the Service of Feminist Pedagogy

Molly C. O’Donnell, and Valaree Ford



Harvard University’s Implicit Association Test (IAT) has been lauded as a tool for assessing implicit bias in a number of areas (e.g., race, gender, religion). Despite the creators’ assertions that “instructors…should offer an alternative assignment” to the IAT, textbooks (e.g., Shaw & Lee, 2020) and pedagogical practices (e.g., Crutcher Williams & Wright, 2020) demonstrate a different reality. In exploring the IAT with students, problems arose. In some cases the IAT triggered students who found that it counterintuitively promoted racial and gender stereotypes. Further, question phrasing and the design of the IAT left some frustrated by its inflexibility and student results. In redeveloping curriculum to be more inclusive, we consider ways to achieve the goals the IAT proposes and avoid negative outcomes, making a preliminary case for substituting it with other bias exercises and/or practices. Our study offers an analysis of the test and documents the potential benefits associated with substituting it as a primary source, as demonstrated in data collected from three undergraduate sections of the course Introduction to Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS 200) from Fall 2020, Spring 2021, and Fall 2021. This proposed substitution allows students to grasp the impact of intersectional identity and hidden bias on their own terms while meeting the goal of personal reflection, thereby underscoring feminist pedagogical commitment to bias education.

keywords: diversity; ethics; feminism; implicit bias; praxis.