Electrophysiological evidence for early perceptual facilitation and efficient categorization of self-related stimuli during an Implicit Association Test measuring neuroticism


  • We are indebted to René Dutschke, Franziska Helling, Bina Mohring, Ilka Schober, Judith Schubert, and Juliane Wetzel for their help with data collection, and to Ulrich Buhss for his valuable assistance in EEG data processing.


The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a widely used latency-based categorization task that indirectly measures the strength of automatic associations between target and attribute concepts. So far, little is known about the perceptual and cognitive processes underlying personality IATs. Thus, the present study examined event-related potential indices during the execution of an IAT measuring neuroticism (N = 70). The IAT effect was strongly modulated by the P1 component indicating early facilitation of relevant visual input and by a P3b-like late positive component reflecting the efficacy of stimulus categorization. Both components covaried, and larger amplitudes led to faster responses. The results suggest a relationship between early perceptual and semantic processes operating at a more automatic, implicit level and later decision-related categorization of self-relevant stimuli contributing to the IAT effect.