Testing The Relationship Between Implicit And Explicit Attitudes

Implicit bias has a direct affect in numerous places, one of which is within the workplace. According to Desai, Chugh, and Brief (2014) women within the workplace can be viewed by men as being unfavourable, incompetent and have lower chances of being employed because of their gender. Implicit and explicit attitudes can have a negative or positive affect on our attitudes and behaviours, which can then impact on how we act in society and our environments. Our implicit attitudes are those that we subconsciously make; our automatic responses, such as a stereotypical belief that is connected to a group of people (Sakaluk & Milhausen, 2012). For example, that women are inferior to men. In comparison, our explicit attitudes are conscious decisions that contribute to having a positive or negative attitude towards an object or group of people (Nosek, 2007). For example, whether or not we like a group of people because of an attribute. This report investigates the relationship between implicit and explicit attitudes.

Carlsson and Agerström (2016), and LaPiere (2010) conducted meta-analyses, being reports that analyse multiple different studies, on the relationship between attitudes and behaviours. Carlsson and Agerström (2016) used the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to investigate numerous different people’s levels of implicit bias and the effects this had on people’s behaviour and their attitudes. However, it was concluded that there was no consistent relationship between the implicit attitudes and behaviours. LaPiere (2010) compared multiple studies that researched the relationship between people’s explicit attitudes and their behaviours. He used questionnaires to measure their attitudes and compared this to their behaviour which they demonstrated in the situation. Similar to Carlsson and Agerström (2016), his research concluded that there was no link between people’s attitudes and their behaviours.

Both meta-analyses state that implicit and explicit attitudes do not affect behaviour. However, the principle of compatibility, which states that the specificity of variables within the studies needs to be consistent, was a factor as LaPiere (2010) investigated gender in a greater depth in comparison to Carlsson and Agerström (2016). Therefore, the current study was conducted to understand how implicit and explicit attitudes impacted behaviours by investigating the indirect relationship between both variables.

The aim of this study is to investigate whether there was an indirect correlation between implicit attitudes and explicit attitudes. To measure implicit and explicit attitudes participants completed an online survey where they completed the Gender-Career IAT(Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998) and the Benevolent Sexism Scale (Glick & Fiske, 2001), respectively. It was predicted that implicit and explicit attitudes would have a positive relationship, thus both would increase in relation to gender.


This study investigated if an indirect relationship existed between implicit and explicit attitudes which would have an effect on behaviour. The results showed that participants had increased speed when responding to stereotypical pairs of a gender, male or female, and a related word, either about the workplace or home, respectively. However, the overall results that measured the relationship between the two variables, implicit and explicit attitudes, produced data that showed no significant relationship. Thus, the results showed no correlation between implicit and explicit attitudes. This finding does not support the hypothesis, however they are consistent with findings from previous research by Carlsson and Agerström (2016) and LaPiere (2010).

A strength of the study was the principle of compatibility which stated that to be comparable they needed to be at the same level of specificity (Ajzen, 2011). This was fulfilled through the IAT and the Benevolent Sexism Scale as they were general and analysed gender to the same level of complexity. In comparison, a limitation was social desirability. This occurred through the Benevolent Sexism Scale as participants, although anonymous, still chose the favourable response as they were reporting about themselves, thus wishing to appear desirable. This resulted in difficulties trying to reach a positive relationship between the two variables, hence confirming the hypothesis.

This relates back to the Desai et al. (2014) research that women experience disadvantages in the workplace due to their gender. As the results showed that there was no correlation between attitudes and behaviour, despite Desai et al. (2014) results showing negative attitudes towards women by men in the workplace this should have had no effect on their actions towards them.

According to McConnell and Leibold (2001) in his previous study he suggested that the methodology of the IAT, might sensitise participants to the aim of the study resulting in them being heavily influenced by social desirability.Therefore, a method that could be implemented in future research that aims to reduce the implications of social desirability on explicit attitudes is to desensitise the participants to allow them to focus on their attitudes rather than being desirable. McConnell and Leibold (2001) suggested that this could be achieved through altering the questions that were asked and by conducting the Benevolent Sexism Scale prior to the IAT. An additional method could include placing emphasis on the test being anonymous, thus minimising people’s aim to be desirable.

To conclude, participants completed an IAT and the Benevolent Sexism Scale to measure the indirect relationship between implicit and explicit attitudes respectively, which would then impact people’s behaviour. It was hypothesised that a positive relationship would exist, however this was not supported as the results showed no correlation between the two variables. This suggested that people’s implicit attitudes and explicit attitudes had no effect on their actions.


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