When Freud (1923) named the deep, inaccessible part of personality the id, this was certainly an original term. Employing a model from more scientific-empirical Social Cognition research, I differentiated between explicit and implicit representations of one’s own personality and considered them as elements of reflective and impulsive information processing, respectively (Strack & Deutsch, in press). Using the traits of shyness, anxiousness, and angriness as examples, I assessed implicit representations of the personality self-concept with the Implicit Association Tests (IATs, Greenwald et al., 1998) and the new Implicit Association Procedures (IAPs) as the tools for indirect measures. In contrast to direct questionnaire measures that assess the explicit personality self-concept, indirect measures are chronometric procedures that avoid asking direct self-judgment questions.
The results showed four important dissociations between direct and indirect measures in the assessment of the personality self-concept. First, indirect measures were more robust against faking than direct measures. Second, the convergent validity between indirect measures was lower than that between direct measures. Third, indirect measures added incremental validity to the prediction of behavior. Fourth, indirect measures were less apt for the concurrent assessment of two traits within one sample than direct measures.
The latter factor was explained by the fact that indirect measures are influenced by the semantic meaning and the positive versus negative valence of stimuli. Whether the former or the latter most likely affected the results depended on whether a positive-negative self-dimension was made salient. The angriness IAT was particularly distorted by the salience of a positive-negative self-dimension. This may be explained by the fact that angriness, though negatively valenced, is related to approach behavior, whereas negative valence is usually associated with avoidance behavior (Neumann et al., 2003). Therefore, a positive-negative self-dimension might have been weaker in the angriness IAT, and the angriness IAT was more affected by a positive-negative self-dimension in the context.
In my opinion, an important aspect of present indirect measures, such as the IATs, is that they allow participants to refuse cooperation. I consider this aspect a justification for further research rather than a deficiency, because the results of such research cannot be employed against the will of examinees. From my point of view, the main purpose of indirect measures is not that they may circumvent the self-presentational strategies of respondents, but that indirect measures lead to a better understanding of the information processes that underlie implicit and explicit representations.
In conclusion, the unresolved issue of semantic meaning and valence being confounded, and the relatively low convergent validity between indirect measures provided evidence that indirect measures are not yet ready to be used as standard instruments for personality assessment. On the other hand, the development of indirect measures such as the IATs (Greenwald et al., 1998) represents a ground-breaking work for two reasons. First, IAT measures assess interindividual differences with internal consistencies that are satisfactory and much higher than the internal consistencies of other indirect procedures, for instance, priming measures (e.g., Banse, 2001; Bosson et al., 2000; Kawakami & Dovidio, 2001). Second, in the present and in other studies, IAT measures were shown to increase the prediction of behavior (e.g. Asendorpf et al., 2002; Egloff & Schmukle, 2002; McConnell & Liebold, 2001). Indirect measures, even in their infancy, are an indispensable research instrument to assess implicit representations of the personality self-concept in order to draw a more holistic picture of personality.
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