Unconscious racism: A concept in pursuit of a measure

Hart Blanton, James Jaccard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


It is common in scientific and popular discussions to claim that unconscious racism is both prevalent and potent in modern societies. We review the theoretical models that posit different forms of unconscious racism and evaluate the empirical evidence for them. Our analysis suggests that people may sometimes lack knowledge of and control over the causes and consequences of their racial biases. However, there is little evidence to support the more provocative claim: that people possess unconscious racist attitudes. Many of the arguments to the contrary rest on strong interpretations of response patterns on implicit attitude measures. Although advances in implicit measurement can improve our understanding of racial bias, at present their use as tools for rooting out unconscious racism is limited. We describe research programs that might move these constructs to firmer scientific footing, and we urge inferential caution until such research programs are carried out.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAnnual Review of Sociology
EditorsKaren Cook, Douglas Massey
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2008

Publication series

NameAnnual Review of Sociology
ISSN (Print)0360-0572


  • Implicit association test
  • Implicit attitudes
  • Psychometrics
  • Racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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