News Details

Tony Greenwald honored with Golden Goose Award for founding research on implicit bias

UW NEWS

Kim Eckart

When Tony Greenwald and his colleagues developed the online Implicit Association Test two decades ago, it enjoyed quick success in the pre-laptop, pre-smartphone, nascent Internet world, with some 45,000 participants in the first month.

The test, which requires classifying words and images rapidly according to their meanings, captures unconscious biases toward — depending on the test version — race, gender, age and dozens of other traits and preferences. Since its debut in 1998, the test has been taken online more than 25 million times and has been used in over 2,000 peer-reviewed research articles. Its concepts have been the subject of classroom and workplace debates, policies and programs.

Now its creators are being honored for their contributions to science and society. Greenwald, a University of Washington professor of psychology, along with Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard University and Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia, will receive the Golden Goose Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The award honors federally funded work that, in the words of AAAS, “may have been considered silly, odd or obscure when first conducted but has resulted in significant benefits to society.” The award was established in 2012 to counter criticisms of wasteful government spending, such as the late U.S. Sen. William Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Award.

“Our work has had much more impact than any scientist has reason to expect for their efforts,” Greenwald said. “We have been blessed by the attention we got both inside the profession of psychology and outside.”

For Greenwald, who joined the UW faculty in 1986, the award is a recognition of work that started 30 years ago at the UW, as he and colleagues developed the field of implicit social cognition. Creating the Implicit Association Test, or IAT,  and placing it online gained it instant attention, he said. But as federal agencies shifted their funding emphasis to applied rather than basic research about 10 years later, the test eventually lost its federal sources of research support.

“As it turned out, the judgment that our research lacked practical application was totally wrong,” Greenwald said.

Read the entire UW NEWS article here.

Watch the Golden Goose Awards here.