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  • About Implicitly - Questions and explanations

    Detailed instructions on completing Implicitly

    How exactly does the test work?

    Implicitly measures the strength of any association you hold between groups of people and negative stereotypes. It does this by examining the way in which you make very simple sorting decisions; it looks at the speed and accuracy of your decision making. If we hold strong associations between a particular group and negative stereotypes, then we find it easy to assign those groups to 'bad' words.

    When asked to make the opposite assignment of 'good' words with the other group, we have to override our instinct to continue assigning bad words to this group. The time taken for this extra mental processing is used as a measure of the strength of the association. Research has linked the extra time taken to real world prejudice in terms of having prejudiced thoughts and feelings and behaving in a discriminatory way towards other people.

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    What do the test 'results' mean to me?

    Firstly, it is unlikely you will get test results at the end of the test. Usually your reports will be given to you in writing or in person.

    There are four possible test results: Low, Mid-Range, Elevated and High. The large majority of people will get ‘Low’ results in any single test.

    Although those with ‘Low’ scores may well have some slight prejudice (usually towards people who are unlike them) these are so slight that we do not think they impinge upon their daily behaviour. Those with ‘Mid-range’ scores are likely to have prejudices which in some situations may affect their behaviour towards others. Those with ‘Elevated’ scores have quite strong prejudices and may find that negative thoughts and feelings about other groups are a regular aspect of their life. The very highest scorers (High) may well be aware that they have strong prejudices because at this level they are almost certainly affecting their behaviour.

    In addition to being ‘Low’, ‘Mid-Range’, ‘Elevated’ or ‘High’, scores may also be ‘inverted’. This means that the score runs opposite to the direction of the test. Some tests are set up to run oppositely to the prevailing stereotype to provide some variation in the test and to reduce people trying to ‘learn’ the tests.

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    Do I have to do the practice test?

    We strongly suggest that you do. It gives you a chance to understand what we want you to do, find the right keys on the keyboard and get rid of any pre-test nerves. Your test scores will be more reliable if you are familiar with the test rather than trying to learn as you go along.

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    Does the way you pair up the words and pictures make any difference to my result?

    Yes, we know that asking you to switch the way things are sorted part way through the test can slow you down a little but we have accounted for this in the scoring before you get the test result.

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    Doesn’t it just mean I know the stereotype, not that I condone it or that it affects my behaviour?

    Implicitly is different to many tests in that it is entirely scored by a connection with real world behaviours. We have established that people with strong associations about a group also admit to strongly negative beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviours towards that group. This connection gets stronger the higher the scores reach. There is also research which shows that your familiarity with the groups being shown does not adversely affect results.

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    The test forced me to make choices I didn’t agree with, such as assigning some words to a side of the screen I thought was wrong.

    We choose the pictures to be as clear as possible but sometimes we know that people may have a different interpretation on some of the words used. This is why the words we use in each test are given at the end of the instructions, so that you can get used to them and how we want you to sort them.

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    My responses are just not very fast, does that affect my result? I am not a very quick reader.

    That won’t affect your score. The test examines differences in the way you respond between the various tasks. It knows how quick you generally are at responding, either because you tend to have slow responses or because you have to read the words. In effect it has a baseline measure of how you respond and it is the differences between the various tasks which it uses, not your overall response times. We have deliberately made the instructions as easy to follow as possible and if you are able to read at the level of the average 12 year old you should be able to understand the test instructions. If you have a disability which affects your capacity to read the test instructions or the words being used, please tell the person who has asked you to complete the test. Implicitly is capable of being adjusted to accommodate many disabilities. You will also get a chance to look at the words being used in each test before the test starts. This will allow you to judge for yourself whether you will be able to respond promptly to the words used.

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    What if I have a disability which affects my ability to read the words or press the keys?

    Implicitly is capable of being adjusted to accommodate many disabilities. If you have a disability which affects your capacity to use a mouse and the left/right arrow keys on the keyboard, please tell the person who has asked you to complete the test. Do this before you take the test. You should also tell the person asking you to complete the test even if you feel you do not have a disability, but if you will find it hard to read the test instructions or the words being used. You will also get a chance to look at the words being used in each test before the test starts. This will allow you to judge for yourself whether you will be able to respond promptly to the words used. You can easily adjust the screen to enlarge the words and pictures. As all disabilities are individual each adjustment has to be considered on an individual basis.

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    I have never done this kind of test before, does that affect my result?

    There is a certain degree of learning in the test, which is why you are offered a practice test before you do the main test(s). Before each test starts there is also a short practice session when you can get used to the words being used and find the right keys on the keyboard.

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    I have not met anyone from one of the groups being shown. Surely that affects the result?

    Recent research shows that it doesn't. What Implicitly tests is your instinctive reaction to the group, so although you rarely (or never) meet people from this group you may still have associations between this group and negative stereotypes. Familiarity with individual words or pictures does not influence the result.

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    What if I have had a traumatic incident involving someone from this group?

    Often an association will begin in an event, or in the way we have been brought up and those around us have spoken/behaved. A traumatic event can become an association and then when we encounter someone who resembles that person again it triggers the same emotional response. This is part and parcel of the prejudice but often requires reinforcement before becoming a prejudice unless the event is very traumatic.

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    I am left handed, does that affect the result?

    No. Left and right handed people achieve similar scores.

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    I have dyslexia. Does that affect results?

    We know that it doesn’t result in higher scores, but we are less clear as to whether it can result in slightly lower scores. The exact reasons for this are unknown. The fact that Implicitly taps into our cognitive information processing may suggest that the differences in how people with dyslexia and other cognitive processing conditions process information may produce this effect.

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    I think I could ‘cheat’ the test if I put my mind to it.

    It is almost impossible to 'fake good' the result you want to give. You could certainly change your scores by trying different ways of responding, all of which run counter to the instructions you are given to work through the test as quickly as you can and make as few mistakes as possible. Implicitly has a number of ‘normal’ response profiles it looks for. If your response pattern does not fit one of those profiles it issues an alert. Our experience in research with people trying to change their scores is that they are never able to change them in such a way as to give the result they want to give, without the system detecting this. Either they end up giving a result they didn’t intend, or the system raises an alert (usually both).

    It is impossible to ‘learn’ the test because each test is different from the last. There are many millions of possible orders in which the words and pictures may appear.

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    I sat the test twice and got different results. Why is that?

    There are two explanations for this. The first may well be simple practice effects, especially if you didn’t do the practice test before you started the first test. The second explanation is that every test has some degree of error built into the test. The results you get reported in Implicitly are driven by very precise measurements. Scores are banded and each band is assigned a label - ‘Low’, ‘Mid-range’, ‘Elevated’ or ‘High’. If your score falls at the boundary between the labels even very small differences can produce a slightly different result. You should not see differences where your scores change by more than a single band, and even those sort of small differences are quite rare.

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    How will the data from my test be used?

    That will depend upon the test user (the person asking you to take the test), but they should tell you clearly how they intend to use the test data and the limits on what they will do with the data. They will not share the data, even within their own organisation, in a format which could identify you, and then only for the reasons they have given you. It will not be shared with other organisations, including government departments. You may be asked to provide demographic information (age, gender etc). This information is required so that we can explore any group differences in scores and will not be used for any other purpose. The test user will not see this data and Shire Professional will remove any identifying data such as names or emails as soon as the test user has been given your results. In this way the time where test scores can be linked with an individual is minimized.

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