What Makes a True Implicit Test?
What makes a true Implicit Test?
Eurosense seems a long time ago now but we had an excellent time and Emily’s paper, Measuring the Emotional Impact of Sweet Snacks, by implicit and explicit methods was extremely well received.
It has led to some discussion about what makes a true implicit test. The confusion arises from the increased use of test systems that ask respondents to give a fast response. To the untrained eye, these can look like implicit tests but in fact do not access the intuitive System 1 response network. Instead they ask the respondent to answer a direct question, quickly. They require an evaluative choice and hence they very much focus on the logical System 2 response system.
In his blog, our partner Andy Dean from System 1 Insights, describes very clearly the differences between a true implicit test and a fast or speeded explicit. In short, getting a fast response does not mean that you are getting an implicit response. If the respondent controls the response it is not an implicit test irrespective of how quickly the answer is given.
If I ask you to press the E key on a keyboard if you would like a million pounds, you will probably press the key extremely quickly, but that is not an implicit response. It is a fast explicit response. You have to make a choice between Yes and No, and there is no right answer.
In a true implicit test there are no direct questions and there is no choice of response. The thing we are testing (brand, product, pack…) is combined with a series of stimuli (words, images or statements) in multiple pairs. On being presented with a pair, the respondent is required to press a certain key on a keyboard quickly, but they don’t have a choice – if they press the wrong button the system records a wrong answer. The reaction time is influenced by how congruent, or incongruent, the pairing is in the mind of the respondent: reaction times to congruent pairings will be faster.
By calculating the response times to each response pairing and ranking them, the System 1 Insights, BrainLink platform, allows us to see which stimuli are most strongly implicitly associated with what we are testing, and which are least. In our sweet snacks paper, we were testing emotion and found excellent discrimination between the implicit emotional profiles generated by the different snacks. You can read the full paper here.