Implicit attitude” : An influential – but delusive – construct.
Implicit attitudes and measures have garnered considerable attention across various psychological domains (e.g., social psychology, health psychology, self and identity, personality, interpersonal and intergroup relations, behavioral and cognitive neuroscience) and beyond (e.g., consumer research, policymaking, moral philosophy, political science, law). This research has contributed to the development of new measurement methods, research paradigms, and inspiring theories. The importance of these contributions should not be underestimated. Yet, we argue that this research builds on divergent and problematic conceptualizations of the implicitness construct. We identify and discuss issues associated with three of these definitions: a first, procedural (implicit=indirect) definition, has little theoretical interest; a second, functional (implicit=automatic) definition, conflates automaticity features, fails to constrain the set of “implicit measures”, and raises construct validity issues; a third, mental theory (implicit=associative) definition, is at odds with empirical evidence. We raise awareness of the harmful consequences of the co-existence of these definitions, and make constructive suggestions for moving research forward on the conceptual and measurement levels.