Policy Implications of Implicit Social Cognition


  • The authors thank N. Sriram and Calvin Lai for their comments in preparation of this article. This project was supported by Project Implicit, Inc. Nosek is an officer of Project Implicit, a nonprofit organization that includes in its mission “To develop and deliver methods for investigating and applying phenomena of implicit social cognition, including especially phenomena of implicit bias based on age, race, gender or other factors.”

Brian Nosek, Box 400400; 102 Gilmer Hall, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400. Tel: 434-924-0666 [e-mail: nosek@virginia.edu].


Basic research in implicit social cognition demonstrates that thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness or conscious control can influence perception, judgment, and action. Implicit measures reveal that people possess implicit attitudes and stereotypes about social groups that are often distinct from their explicitly endorsed beliefs and values. The evidence that behavior can be influenced by implicit social cognition contrasts with social policies that assume that people know and control the causes of their behavior. We consider the present state of evidence for implicit social cognition and its implications for social policy. We conclude that consideration of implicit social cognition can improve policy, and that most policy use of implicit measures as selection or evaluation devices is not easily justified.