A quick guide to implicit attitude testing in packaging design research

What is implicit attitude testing (IAT)?

Implicit attitude testing (IAT) is a quantitative research technique to measure underlying attitudes or feelings. As such, one area in which it can be used is quantitative packaging design research.

How does IAT work?

IAT works by measuring the time taken to answer a question, in milliseconds. A shorter time suggests a stronger underlying or implicit attitude. This is because it means there was less hesitation or thought involved.

Implicit attitude testing in packaging design research

A traditional packaging design test (like quantitative research generally) only gives explicit results. For example, take a rating scale question. It could be that x% of respondents answer Very or Quite (appealing, likely to buy, etc…) for Design A, whilst y% of respondents answer Very or Quite for Design B.

If x% is higher than y% then you could conclude that Design A is superior to Design B in that dimension (appeal, likelihood to buy, etc). This is the explicit result.

But it could be that x% and y% are similar. In this case, IAT can provide more clarity about any underlying or implicit differences between x% and y%. For example, if the average time-to-answer behind the x% was less than the average for the y% this would suggest Design A is stronger than Design B at an implicit level.

In fact, even if x% and y% are different, it can still be useful to understand how they compare at an implicit level.


How does an IAT question work?

Usually an IAT question would be a binary choice, such as between two images, words, or phrases. For example, this could be two complete pack designs, individual elements from pack designs, or on-pack messages. The question itself is positioned in the middle of the screen, with the two possible answers on each side. The respondent has to click on one or other answer. And they have to do this quickly, without stopping to think. This is in contrast to other types of question, on which you usually would want respondents to stop and think.

So implicit attitude testing can be incorporated into packaging design research through the addition of a set of IAT questions and a method of measuring response times.

Read more about packaging design research or Implicit attitude testing.

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