Implicit Association Testing

What does Implicit mean?

Implicit testing uses reaction times to measure the structure of memory. For example, in a word association task, someone might be very likely (and quick) to say “cheese” in response to “mouse”, but less likely (and slower) to say “bus”. An implicit response test (IRT) tells us how automatic and subconscious people’s answers are. Somebody might be quick to call LIDL “cheap” and quick to say it’s not “quality”, but slow to respond when deciding if it’s “reliable”. These differences reveal how these concepts are related in people’ memory.

What is the Implicit Test?

The Implicit Test measures how strongly people think x is y (e.g. McDonalds is Healthy).

We use The Implicit Test to measure this, rather than just asking people outright, because survey questions often measure what people ‘think they think’, or what they want to admit publicly, rather than what is actually true.

The Implicit Test uses reaction times to measure subconscious memory networks. You could probably say quickly whether you think McDonald’s is healthy or not – but it might take you some thinking time to decide whether or not Barclays is healthy.

We often compare results collected before content with results after content to measure any shift in perception caused by the content.

We record the participant’s answer (yes or no; e.g., McDonald’s is or is not healthy), and we also measure the participant’s’ reaction time in milliseconds.

The reaction time tells us if it’s a strong (i.e., emotional) yes versus a weak (i.e., thoughtful) yes, for example; it tells us the strength of an association between two concepts like McDonald’s and healthy.

The test is quick and easy to do, and provides a robust and independent metric to supplement our other core technologies  – emotional reactions via Facial Coding and attention via Eye Tracking). In total, this gives us three separate mechanisms to understand what is happening inside participants’ heads.

For a content to be effective, it needs to do three things: catch attention; engage the audience; and impact behaviours. Eye-Tracking and Facial Coding, respectively, tell us the first two; Implicit Testing tells us a strong proxy for the latter.

The Implicit Test is a unique variant of a standard psychological testing tool whose use is well established and understood. We have simply made it easier and more intuitive for participants, and adapted it to focus on brand or product qualities.

What results do I get?

The main output from implicit testing is absolute association compared to benchmark values, and changes in the absolute association after exposure to a Stim.

The implicit test also considers how quick people are to respond when asked if a trait applies to a particular brand.

As well as looking at people’s answers (e.g. is Pepsi “quality” or not) we look at how sure (i.e., quick) they are. Their response time is compared to a baseline response time to see if it is normal, slow (i.e. unsure) or quick (i.e. sure).

These numbers tell us what proportion of people, to at least a moderate strength (i.e. moderately quicker than the baseline), associate the target brand with the given trait (e.g. “Pepsi” and “quality”).