What sort of English teacher is best – native speaker or Thai? Uncovering subconscious attitudes

When people ask for your opinion, do you always tell them what you truly think? Why not? Often, people don’t speak their mind because they are afraid of hurting listeners’ feeling, feel embarrassed about their thoughts, or most surprisingly, they do not even know what they think.

 

To uncover what people think subconsciously, psychologists have developed the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a test of subconscious beliefs and behaviors. The IAT is based on associations between the subconscious mind and decisions that people make in seconds. A test taker will be asked to do classification tasks where they match concepts and (positive and negative) attributes. Their response latency or time lag in answering is measured. Some tests focus on interesting social issues including Asian IAT – attitudes to Asians and Americans, Weight IAT – attitudes to fat and thin people, and Race IAT – attitudes to nationality and skin tones. Some other tests show gender stereotype based on social perceptions. For example, Gender-Career IAT reveals that people usually associate males with work and females with family and housework. Gender-Science IAT shows that people are more likely to link males and sciences, and females and liberal arts. Several IATs are available at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html.

 

“Implicit attitudes towards native and non-native speaker teachers” (Watson Todd and Pojanapunya, 2009) is an interdisciplinary study which implemented the IAT method to research English language teaching in Thailand. To see how the IAT works, I would like you to try a paper-based IAT. In the table below, you will see a list of teachers’ names in the middle column (Ajarn is ‘Teacher’ in Thai). The names represent a concept of nativeness with some of them representing Native English Speaking Teachers (NESTs) and the others representing non-Native English Speaking Teachers (non-NESTs), Thais in this case. 

 

Now, classify the names into NESTs or non-NESTs by writing a check mark on the left or right column next to each name.

 

NESTs Non-NESTs
Ajarn Michael 
Ajarn Teeradech
Ajarn Sofia
Ajarn Wipawan
Ajarn Julia
Ajarn Chokchai
Ajarn William 
Ajarn Nipaporn

 

Can you classify the names very quickly? That is because you have prior familiarity with Thai and non-Thai names. What you just did was to help you become familiar with how the test works. 

 

Now, in the table below, you will see 2 more categories at the top of the left and right columns. In addition to the concepts of NESTs and non-NESTs, we now also have positive and negative attributes represented by positive and negative adjectives. 

 

Again, classify names and words in the middle column into the left-right categories. Importantly, do it as fast as you can!  

 

Section 1

 

NESTs or  Positive adjectives

non-NESTs or  Negative adjectives

Ajarn Teeradech
Ajarn Sofia
Creative
Ajarn Wipawan
Passive
Ajarn Julia
Cheerless 
Ajarn Chokchai
Ajarn William
Enjoyable
Ajarn Nipaporn
Dogmatic
Open-minded 

 

Do the same thing again in Section 2. Notice that the Positive and the Negative adjectives categories have been swapped around.   

 

Section 2

NESTs or Negative adjectives non-NESTs or Positive adjectives
Passive
Enjoyable
Ajarn Sofia
Ajarn Wipawan
Open-mined
Ajarn Julia
Cheerless
Ajarn Chokchai
Ajarn William
Creative
Ajarn Teeradech
Ajarn Nipaporn
Dogmatic

 

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