From job discrimination to discussions about personal preference, black hair continues to be at the center of many debates. A new version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT), created by the Perception Institute seeks to examine and determine biases against black natural hair.
First developed in the late-90s, the IAT is a racial bias test that measures an individual’s association between their own memory and a set of given objects. These objects are used to represent larger concepts. The Perception Institute “is a consortium of researchers, advocates, and strategists who translate cutting edge mind science research on race, gender, ethnic, and other identities into solutions that reduce bias and discrimination, and promote belonging.” This new version of the IAT, titled the “Good Hair Study,” included 4,163 participants — a group comprised of 3,475 men and women and 688 women who self-identified as “naturalistas.” The “naturalistas” were also members of an online natural hair community.
“The beauty industry has long offered us ways to find our best selves,” says Perception Institute co-founder and executive director Alexis McGill Johnson. “But how is it challenging us to see the best in each other – without bias? Many black women will feel affirmed by the Good Hair Study – it is what they have always known and experienced: wearing natural hairstyles has deep political and social implications. Our hope is that those who create the images we see in our daily lives will consider how bias against natural hair can undermine the ability for black women to be their full selves and affect their professional trajectory, social life and self-esteem. Moreover, we hope to encourage researchers to use intersectional approach to design new metrics, such as the Hair IAT, to drive new and nuanced conversations.”
The majority of those who participated in the “Good Hair Study” did display a degree of bias against black women’s natural hair, but researchers did note some positive aspects to the study. Younger participants were less likely to hold biases than their older counterparts, signifying room for change in attitudes.
“What is most exciting from this study is the finding that black and white women who are part of this particular natural hair online community showed more positive attitudes – both explicit and implicit,” said Rachel Godsil, Co-Founder and Director of Research of Perception Institute. “In this community, images of women with textured hair are celebrated and affirmed. As part of Perception Institute’s work toward finding solutions to address bias that so deeply affects black women and girls in all aspects of their life, we will continue to explore the effects of regular exposure to positive visual representations on people’s attitudes.”
You can take the test yourself HERE. Note: when asked for “Subject ID” enter “0.”