, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 139-144
Date: 21 Sep 2012

The power of a story: New, automatic associations from a single reading of a short scenario


The implicit association test (IAT) is typically used to assess nonconscious categorization judgments that are “under control of automatically activated evaluation” (Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998, p. 1464) and that are usually considered independent of explicit judgments. The present study builds on recent work suggesting evidence of short-term modifiability of the IAT effect. Specifically, we show that reading a short text that describes a novel, fictional scenario, within which the to-be-evaluated categories are embedded, can produce substantial and immediate modulations of the IAT effect. This modulation effect does not occur when subjects are simply instructed to think about counterstereotypical associations (Experiment 1A and 1B). In Experiment 2, we use a variant of the IAT to show that scenario modulation cannot be explained in terms of strategic criterion shifts. These results suggest that a newly acquired knowledge structure targeting the abstract, category level can produce behavioral effects typically associated with automatic categorization.

This research was funded through NIA Grant R01 AG19296-01A1, awarded to U.M.