Social Psych Textbook AudiT: The Affective Misattribution Paradigm

The Affective Missattribution Paradigm (AMP) is a popular measure of attitudes. The main promise of this measure is that it measures implicit attitudes, where the term “implicit” suggests that participants are (a) not aware of their attitude, (b) not aware that their attitude is being measured, or (c) aware that their attitude is being measured, but unable to control (fake) their responses.

The picture below illustrates the basic principle of the AMP. The critical attitude object is the picture of a tropical beach. The aim is to measure your attitude towards tropical beaches. However, the task is presented as a task to evaluate the Chinese character and to ignore the tropical beach. The problem for participants is that the Chinese character elicits no strong emotion (unless you are Chinese and know that the character means death), while the picture of the beach elicits a positive emotional response for many participants. The proposition of the AMP is that participants involuntarily rely on their emotional response to the the tropical beach (called the prime) to judge the character (called the target).

An alternative version of the AMP would present the prime subliminally; that is, the presentation would be so short and masked with another image that participants cannot identify the target picture. This would make the AMP an implicit measure of attitudes without awareness of the true source of the evaluation. However, subliminal presentations are not reliable enough to measure attitudes (Payne, 2017).

However, the presentation of prime stimuli in plain view makes it clear that participants are aware of the prime. The question is whether they are aware that their emotional response is elicited by the prime rather than the target. Maybe they are simply too lazy to bother controlling their attention or response, which is more effortful than to simply report the emotional response that was elicited.

Three studies have provided evidence that participants are aware of the true source of their feelings and can control their responses.

Bar-Anan and Nosek (2002) asked participants how they made their responses and found priming effects for participants who stated that their responses were guided by the prime rather than the target.

Teige-Mocigemba, Penzl, Becker, Henn, and Klauer (2015) simply instructed participants to respond opposite to their emotional responses and found that participants were able to do so.

Hazlett and Berinsky (2018) gave students small monetary incentives to control their automatic emotional responses to primes. The key finding was that providing a monetary incentive further decreased the influence of primes on participants’ responses over a simple instruction to ignore the primes. This supports the motivation hypothesis that participants are abel to control their responses, but lack motivation to do so unless their is a reason for it.

In conclusion, the AMP is not an implicit measure of attitudes in the sense that participants are unaware that their attitude is being measured or unable to control their responses.

It is also noteworthy that the AMP has modest correlations with implicit measures of attitudes like the Implicit Association Test.

The problem with the low correlation between the IAT and AMP is that both tests are promoted as measures of implicit attitudes, but the low correlation means that they are poor measures of a single construct.

In conclusion, there is evidence to suggest that the AMP may not be an implicit measure of attitudes and evidence that it correlates poorly with other implicit measures.

How do Gilovich, Keltner, Chen, and Nisbett introduce the AMP to undergraduate students?

The textbook merely mentions that AMP scores have demonstrated convergent and predictive validity in a number of studies.

Responses on the AMP have been shown to be related to plitical attitudes, other measures of racial bias, and significant personal habits like smoking and drinking (Greenwald, Smith, Sriram, Bar-Anan & Nosek, 2009; Payne et al., 1995; Payne, Govorun, & Arbuckle, 2008; Payne, McClernon, & Dobbins, 2007). (p. 369)

Three of the four citations are by Payne, who developed the AMP and has a conflict of interest to show that his measure is valid and useful. None of the citations is more recent than 2010, meaning that no significant updates have been made in response to recent critical articles about the AMP.

The cited Greenwald et al. (2009) article is particularly informative because it examined convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity in a large, non-student sample.

The textbook claim that the AMP correlates with other implicit racial bias measures is supported by the r = .218 correlation with the Brief IAT measure. However, there is little evidence for discriminant validity because the AMP also correlates r = .220 and r = .208 with two explicit measures of prejudice (4. Thermometer & 5. Likert, respectively).

Moroever, predictive validity of the AMP is shown by the correlation with voter intentions , r = .113. This correlation is low and not higher than those for the two explicit measures, r = .211 and r = .124.

Finally, the study failed to find strong pro-White biases in this largely White sample (70% White) for the AMP (M = -0.02, SD = 0.17, d = .12) and the brief IAT (M = 0.06, SD = 0.42, d = 0.14), which were not larger than the pro-White bias for explicit measures that are subject to social desirable responding; feeling thermometer (M = 0.35, SD = 1.63, d = .21) and Likert Scale (M = 0.35, SD = 0.86, d = 41).

These results do not justify claims that the AMP and the IAT are measures of some hidden, implicit attitudes that are only accessible by means of indirect attitude measures and that influence participants’ behavior without their knowledge. However, this is the citation provided in the textbook to support these claims.

If textbook authors would have to present the actual evidence rather than a citation such distortions of the truth would not be possible. Thus, students should demand more scientific figures and tables and fewer cute pictures in their social psychology textbook. After all, they pay good money for it.

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