Cognitive inertia and the implicit association test

Messner, Claude; Vosgerau, Joachim (2010). Cognitive inertia and the implicit association test. Journal of Marketing Research, 47(2), pp. 374-386. American Marketing Association 10.1509/jmkr.47.2.374

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The authors review the implicit association test (IAT), its use in marketing, and the methodology and validity issues that surround it. They focus on a validity problem that has not been investigated previously, namely, the impact of cognitive inertia on IAT effects. Cognitive inertia refers to the difficulty in switching from one categorization rule to another, which causes IAT effects to depend on the order of administration of the two IAT blocks. In Study 1, the authors observe an IAT effect when the compatible block precedes the incompatible block but not when it follows the incompatible block. In Studies 2 and 3, the IAT effect changes its sign when the order of the blocks reverses. Cognitive inertia distorts individual IAT scores and diminishes the correlations between IAT scores and predictor variables when the block order is counterbalanced between subjects. Study 4 shows that counterbalancing the block order repeatedly within subjects can eliminate cognitive inertia effects on the individual level. The authors conclude that researchers should either interpret IAT scores at the aggregate level or, if individual IAT scores are of interest, counterbalance the block order repeatedly within subjects.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Department of Business Management > Institute of Innovation Management > Consumer Behavior

UniBE Contributor:

Messner, Claude Mathias


600 Technology > 650 Management & public relations
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics




American Marketing Association




Claude Mathias Messner

Date Deposited:

17 Jul 2014 12:15

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:28

Publisher DOI:





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