Ethical Considerations of the Harvard Implicit Association Test. Are Canadian University EDI Offices Complying With These Guidelines?

The Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) is often recommended by the EDI offices of Canadian Universities to discover one’s unconscious biases. Unconscious biases are a cornerstone of the justification for EDI programs.

Below, please find the Ethical Considerations page of Harvard’s Project Implicit (IAT test site) and a few examples of recommendations to take the test from Canadian EDI offices.

I have much more to say about Implicit Biases, but here I confine myself to asking whether the examples I provide are in line with Harvard’s IAT Ethical Considerations?

Ethical Considerations, Project Implicit, Harvard University, https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ethics.html (last accessed July 17, 2022)

Screen Shot of Project Implicit Ethical Considerations, July 17, 2022:

EXAMPLES:

  1. University of British Columbia (UBC)

“Unconscious bias in the workplace,” Equity & Inclusion Office, September 4, 2021 (accessed July 17, 2022) https://equity.ubc.ca/news-and-stories/unconscious-bias-in-the-workplace/

Example comparison:

UBC: “Learn what your own implicit biases are by taking Harvard’s Project Implicit Association Test

versus

Project Implicit: “The IAT does not meet the standards of measurement reliability for diagnostic use. Just as blood pressure readings might change from one doctor’s visit to another depending on how stressed and tired you are, and even how much coffee you may have had, IAT results can change from one time to another depending on where you currently are, your recent thoughts or experiences, and deliberate strategies you might use to influence test results.”

The upshot. You CANNOT learn what your own implicit biases are by taking an IAT test. Yet UBC tells you you can do just that!

  • Screen shot July 17, 2022

2. Simon Fraser University (SFU)

“Implicit bias, hiring, and retention: Equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) resource guide,” Academic Integrity/Equity Diversity + Inclusion, Library, Simon Fraser University, https://www.lib.sfu.ca/help/academic-integrity/edi/hiring-unconscious-bias, accessed July 17, 2022.

“Test your own biases

Project Implicit (Harvard)
Includes an interactive tool for testing your own implicit biases.”

  • Screen shot July 17, 2022


3. University of Victoria (UVic)

“Unconscious Biases,” Employment Equity, Equity and Human Rights, University of Victoria, https://www.uvic.ca/equity/employment-equity/bias/index.php, accessed July 17, 2022.

“Project Implicit: Online tests to identify unconscious biases https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

  • Screen shot, July 17, 2022.

2 thoughts on “Ethical Considerations of the Harvard Implicit Association Test. Are Canadian University EDI Offices Complying With These Guidelines?

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