Measuring Implicit Attitudes: A Positive Framing Bias Flaw in the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP)

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How can implicit attitudes best be measured? The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP), unlike the Implicit Association Test (IAT), claims to measure absolute, not just relative, implicit attitudes. In the IRAP, participants make congruent (Fat Person-Active: false; Fat Person-Unhealthy: true) or incongruent (Fat Person-Active: true; Fat Person-Unhealthy: false) responses in different blocks of trials. IRAP experiments have reported positive or neutral implicit attitudes (e.g., neutral attitudes toward fat people) in cases in which negative attitudes are normally found on explicit or other implicit measures. It was hypothesized that these results might reflect a positive framing bias (PFB) that occurs when participants complete the IRAP. Implicit attitudes toward categories with varying prior associations (nonwords, social systems, flowers and insects, thin and fat people) were measured. Three conditions (standard, positive framing, and negative framing) were used to measure whether framing influenced estimates of implicit attitudes. It was found that IRAP scores were influenced by how the task was framed to the participants, that the framing effect was modulated by the strength of prior stimulus associations, and that a default PFB led to an overestimation of positive implicit attitudes when measured by the IRAP. Overall, the findings question the validity of the IRAP as a tool for the measurement of absolute implicit attitudes. A new tool (Simple Implicit Procedure:SIP) for measuring absolute, not just relative, implicit attitudes is proposed.

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