Implicit association tests: Stimuli validation from participant responses

SAM Hogenboom*, K Schulz, L van Maanen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Implicit Association Test (IAT, Greenwald et al., J. Pers. Soc. Psychol., 74, 1998, 1464) is a popular instrument for measuring attitudes and (stereotypical) biases. Greenwald et al. (Behav. Res. Methods, 54, 2021, 1161) proposed a concrete method for validating IAT stimuli: appropriate stimuli should be familiar and easy to classify – translating to rapid (response times <800 ms) and accurate (error < 10%) participant responses. We conducted three analyses to explore the theoretical and practical utility of these proposed validation criteria. We first applied the proposed validation criteria to the data of 15 IATs that were available via Project Implicit. A bootstrap approach with 10,000 ‘experiments’ of 100 participants showed that 5.85% of stimuli were reliably valid (i.e., we are more than 95% confident that a stimulus will also be valid in a new sample of 18- to 25–year-old US participants). Most stimuli (78.44%) could not be reliably validated, indicating a less than 5% certainty in the outcome of stimulus (in)validity for a new sample of participants. We then explored how stimulus validity differs across IATs. Results show that only some stimuli are consistently (in)valid. Most stimuli show between-IAT variances, which indicate that stimulus validity differs across IAT contexts. In the final analysis, we explored the effect of stimulus type (images, nouns, names, adjectives) on stimulus validity. Stimulus type was a significant predictor of stimulus validity. Although images attain the highest stimulus validity, raw data show large differences within stimulus types. Together, the results indicate a need for revised validation criteria. We finish with practical recommendations for stimulus selection and (post-hoc) stimulus validation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)975-1002
Number of pages28
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date2 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • Implicit association test
  • Internal validity
  • Stimulus validation


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