Using facial expressions instead of response keys in the implicit association test

Yoav Bar-Anan*, Ronen Hershman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research found that when people are instructed to smile toward liked objects and show negative facial expressions toward disliked objects, their facial response is faster and more intense than when they are required to smile toward disliked objects and express negative facial response toward liked objects. The present research tested a technologically innovative indirect evaluation measure that was based on that finding. Participants completed an implicit association test (IAT)—a common indirect measure of evaluation, responding with their emotional facial expressions, rather than by pressing response keys. In two web studies, using emotional facial expression detection through a webcam, we found that the Facial Response IAT (FR-IAT) is a reliable and valid measure of evaluations, comparable to the keyboard IAT. Because facial responses provide more information than key responses, pursuing future improvements of the FR-IAT’s methodology, software, and data analysis is a promising direction for enhancing the quality of indirect evaluation measurement. The same methodology and technology may also enhance other indirect measures of evaluation and cognitive tests related to emotion and judgment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavior Research Methods
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Attitudes
  • Facial expressions
  • Implicit association test
  • Implicit measures
  • Implicit social cognition


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