How Should We Think About Implicit Measures and Their Empirical “Anomalies”?

WIREs Cognitive Science:1-7 (2022)
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Based on a review of several “anomalies” in research using implicit measures, Machery (2021) dismisses the modal interpretation of participant responses on implicit measures and, by extension, the value of implicit measures. We argue that the reviewed findings are anomalies only for specific—influential but long-contested—accounts that treat responses on implicit measures as uncontaminated indicators of trait-like unconscious representations that coexist with functionally independent conscious representations. However, the reviewed findings are to-be-expected “normalities” when viewed from the perspective of long-standing alternative frameworks that treat responses on implicit measures as the product of dynamic processes that operate on momentarily activated, consciously accessible information. Thus, although we agree with Machery that the modal view is empirically unsupported, we argue that implicit measures can make a valuable contribution to understanding the complexities of human behavior if they are used wisely in a way that acknowledges what they can and cannot do.

Author Profiles

Michael Brownstein
John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY)
Alex Madva
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona


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