Measuring the unconscious through implicit techniques is in-vogue right now, and I’ll admit that I’ve been a huge fan of them for a couple decades, ever since I got to use a tachistoscope in university. Implicit techniques are based on the premise that people’s feelings, opinions, and attitudes are often not accessible to basic awareness. You’re probably most familiar with this in terms of people not recognizing or admitting that they are sexist, racist, homophobic, or xenophobic. Or, at least, the extent to which they are —ist or —ic.
Implicit techniques often entail having people do word or image comparisons at super-high speeds. For instance, you might ask people to assign one set of 100 words (e.g., adventurous, bewildered, debonair, heroic, birthday balloons, seaside, pyramids) to a couple of brands in under a minute. A choice must be made for every single word. The reasoning behind this technique is that decisions are made too quickly for logical thought to occur. Rather, gut feelings, the unconscious mind, the reptilian brain, are the only processes being accessed.
But what about this scenario?
I KNOW I am sexist, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic. I was raised in that culture and it is embedded in me. Growing up, I saw sexism and racism all over the media and, today, I see homophobia and xenophobia all over media. At this point in my life, it would be massively hard to make that part of me disappear. Fortunately, what I can do, and what I have done, is to recognize that part of me so damn fast that it has miniscule effects on my actions. I know these biases exist in every socialized human being (ah, the innocence of babies who haven’t yet been taught to be biased!) and I actively tell myself that those feelings are wrong. I’ve actively moved the treatment of those thoughts and feelings from the unconscious to the conscious.
Which brings me to my main point. It doesn’t make sense to always and only measure the unconscious. Why? Because my actions will demonstrate a completely different story than my unconscious brain will reveal. Implicit testing may suggest that I wouldn’t be amenable to a person, brand, service, or company, but then, low and behold, there I am endorsing, using, and buying it. My biased brain is contradicting the scientifically developed prediction algorithm that says I will not open my wallet.
I hope you’ll take a couple of lessons from this.
- Never forgo implicit techniques for explicit techniques. Both are always mandatory or you will have gaps in your understandings and treatments. You need to know what biases and conscious decisions relate to your brand.
- Accept that human beings, including you, have negative biases. And that’s not a bad thing. The only bad thing is being unable to recognize and being unwilling to accept those biases.
Today, I visited a number of historical sites in Atlanta. The kind of sites that make you feel you are truly not worthy. I saw the gravesite of Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone With the Wind. You may not know it but she worked on behalf of black people in her community and is highly respected for more than being an author. Nearby, I was honoured to see the childhood home and burial site of Martin Luther King. Few people have earned the amount of respect he has. Living and dying in the name of freedom and respect will do that. As I wandered the city from one amazing historical site to another, each one reminding me of how important it is to treat other people as worthy humans, I experienced something that I have never experienced to such a degree in my life before.
Catcalls. At least ten different men felt the need to harass me with taunts and disrespectful words as I walked by them but did not acknowledge them. Obviously, my attire was provoking that attention as I wore a knee length blue dress with socks, running shoes for maximum step counts with no blisters, and a huge sun hat because preventing skin cancer is more important than vanity.
I should note though that one single man said good afternoon to me. It’s sad that I did not reply to him. Unfortunately, I was busy worrying if he would return a polite reply with more harassment. You see, ten harassers in a row ruin it for the nice guy after them. So, to that nice man who didn’t yell at me when I didn’t return his greeting, I wish you a lovely evening.
The funny thing is, just a few days ago, I joined the #distractinglysexy movement showing off the screens of statistics I work with every day. One sexist Nobel laureate needed to be reminded that sexism is his disorder, not mine.
I’ve now learned that women can’t work without distracting men. They also can’t walk down the streets without distracting men. So what can we do?