Implicit Social Behavior

In todays world we are taught from a very young age to behave in a specific manner. We are socially prescribed to adhere to specific norms and roles that constitute a certain type of behavior deemed acceptable by societal standards. Acceptable behavior is often situational and environmentally specific, as behavior in a gym differs immensely from that of a classroom.

For example there are table manner/behaviors we all abide by, therefore, while eating at the dinner table you would not reach into the bowl of mashed potatoes with your hands to get yourself a serving, you would use some sort of utensil. Something we are taught as babies, to use a fork and knife, with the exception of certain foods.

We are continually reinforced to be aware and conscious of our actions and behaviors as there are social norms we must adhere to or be subjected to social ridicule. Our behavior is therefore explicit as we are making a conscious effort behave and act in a particular way.

However, there are still implicit behaviors we face that can effect our behaviors unconsciously. We unknowing behave in ways that we often times were taught implicitly as well as past notions and experiences we were exposed to can be cataloged in our brain without our knowledge of doing so.

For example you attitude is very much an implicit social behavior, as you have no control over how someone or something will make you feel. Your attitude is motivated by a past experience that is consciously unremembered.  For example my sister for as long as I can remember has absolutely hated corn, she was repulsed by it. She insisted it had nothing to do with the taste but just the thought of putting a spoon full of corn in her mouth made her gage. Later we found out that as a toddler my sister actually choked on some corn and nearly choked to death, she has no recollection of this event but her mind unconsciously made the association that corn is bad and she should not eat it.

Self-esteem is also an implicit operation as we unaware of our constant unconscious attitudes towards ourselves. Specifically our projections onto other objects. If you unfortunate process are very negative attitude towards yourself and your self esteem is very low, you are more than likely to put others down, as you yourself put yourself down, bullies for example.

Stereotypes operate implicitly as stereotypes can drive our treatment or expectations of others. For instance gender role stereotypes, conversations you have with a girl may differ  than a conversation with a boy as you assume certain gender roles are in play. If you approach a girl you may be more inclined to talk about a reality TV show, fashion or other gender typical topics. For a boy you may be more likely to discuss sports or truck etc. We unconsciously adjust out additives based on previous knowledge we have  abstained through experience.

Implicit behavior is a huge part of our social existence and developed as we learn and grow through our childhood. Your attitude, self-esteem, and believed stereotypes are unconsciously instilled in us by our parents, teacher or any other authoritative figure in our lives. We have no control over who influences us and what we implicitly learn, therefore it is very important for older generations to be very cautious in thee presence of young adolescence because you can never know what their minds will decide to take in.

Hoping to be a future elementary school educator this is of great interest to me. My focus, constituting next week, will be focused primarily on learning in adolescence as I believe to be beneficial to me as a future educator, as well as anyone planning on being a future parent, so stay tuned 🙂


Greenwald, A. G. & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit Social Cognition: Attitudes, Self-Esteem, and Stereotypes, 102(1), p. 4-27.




3 thoughts on “Implicit Social Behavior

  1. “The past 15 years of research in implicit social cognition can be characterized as the Age of Measurement because of a proliferation of measurement methods and research evidence demonstrating their practical value for predicting human behavior. Implicit measures assess constructs that are distinct, but related, to self-report assessments, and predict variation in behavior that is not accounted for by those explicit measures” – Nosek, Hawkins & Frazier (2011)

    The review conducted by the above mentioned researchers seeks to clarify and expand on the classification of various implicit/explicit levels of consciousness, and the biased self-concepts developed therein. Claiming that “fifteen years later, implicit measures are used extensively in social cognition research,” the general consensus within the scientific literature has come to agree on Greenwald & Banaji’s original work.

    Project Implicit, inc. officer Brian Nosek works towards the non-profit organization’s goal of investigating and applying social cognitive principles of the implicit bias phenomenon, especially based on age, gender and race. Within this framework, his paper published in ‘Trends in Cognitive Sciences’ attempts to measure the influence of stereotypes, attitudes and self-concepts on behavior. Since these cognitive processes occur outside conscious awareness or control, the argument is presented that such social psychological constructs can be manipulated in order to modify/sculpt one’s one self-identity. Within this “Age of Measurement” (from Greenwald & Banaji’s 1997 paper until Nosek, Hawkins & Frazier’s 2011 paper), various different tests have been created to measure these implicit and unconscious constructs. These include the Implicit Association Test (IAT), Sequantial Evaluation Priming (EP), Sequential Priming/Lexical Decision Task (LDT), Go/No-Go Association Task (GNAT), Extrinsic Affective Simon Test (EAST), Linguistic Intergroup Bias (LIB), etc.

    Here’s the study I’m talking about:

    Nosek, B. A., Hawkins, C. B., & Frazier, R. S. (2011). Implicit Social Cognition: From Measures to Mechanisms. SSRN Electronic Journal, 15(4), 152-159. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1781222


  2. I looked up the article “Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes” you cited and I found the portion on attitudes to be particularly interesting! I noticed that the main characteristic of implicit social cognition is that it goes unreported by subjects as it unavailable consciously. Like you said, attitudes are a part of implicit social cognition as “attitudes are activated outside of conscious attention” (Greenwald, 1995). This is because the activation of attitudes occurs too quickly to be processed by the conscious and is an unconscious response. Activation is also a result of subliminal stimuli and remains unreported by subjects and the stimuli can be as simple as one word. Additionally, all you need is one initial exposure to a stimulus to develop an attitude towards it which is known as an “instant attitude”. The attitude may be explicitly apparent to the beholder in this case but because the “instant attitude may have no introspectively accessible basis”, it is still considered an implicit attitude (Greenwald, 1995).

    Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102(1), 4-27. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.102.1.4


  3. Social norms definitely affect our daily lives and how we have grown up. These implicit behaviours and unspoken rules affect how we build relationships and social behaviour. Without realizing it, we do things that are deemed to be “the norm” in order to fit in with our social groups and maintain friendships and relationships. Our social identity has a large impact on the people that we spend time with and how we choose to live. If we identify with a specific social group, we will follow the norms associated with that group in order to continue to stay there. Social norms can help us to understand human behaviour because it is a key factor in why we do what we do. This is a factor in both individual and group behaviour, influencing each other as well.


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