Identifying temporal and causal contributions of neural processes underlying the Implicit Association Test (IAT)

Chad E. Forbes, Katherine A. Cameron, Jordan Grafman, Aron K. Barbey, Jeffrey Solomon, Walter Ritter, Daniel Ruchkin

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a popular behavioral measure that assesses the associative strength between outgroup members and stereotypical and counterstereotypical traits. Less is known, however, about the degree to which the IAT reflects automatic processing. Two studies examined automatic processing contributions to a gender-IAT using a data driven, social neuroscience approach. Performance on congruent (e.g., categorizing male names with synonyms of strength) and incongruent (e.g., categorizing female names with synonyms of strength) IAT blocks were separately analyzed using EEG (event-related potentials, or ERPs, and coherence; Study 1) and lesion (Study 2) methodologies. Compared to incongruent blocks, performance on congruent IAT blocks was associated with more positive ERPs that manifested in frontal and occipital regions at automatic processing speeds, occipital regions at more controlled processing speeds and was compromised by volume loss in the anterior temporal lobe, insula and medial PFC. Performance on incongruent blocks was associated with volume loss in supplementary motor areas, cingulate gyrus and a region in medial PFC similar to that found for congruent blocks. Greater coherence was found between frontal and occipital regions to the extent individuals exhibited more bias. This suggests there are separable neural contributions to congruent and incongruent blocks of the IAT but there is also a surprising amount of overlap. Given the temporal and regional neural distinctions, these results provide converging evidence that stereotypic associative strength assessed by the IAT indexes automatic processing to a degree.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberNOVEMBER 2012
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Automaticity
  • EEG Coherence
  • Event-Related Brain Potentials
  • Extra-Striate Visual Cortex
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Implicit Association Test
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Traumatic brain injuries


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