Reflecting on 25 years of research using implicit measures: Recommendations for their future use

Pieter Van Dessel, Jamie Cummins, Sean Hughes, Sarah Kasran, Femke Cathelyn, Tal Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For more than 25 years, implicit measures have shaped research, theorizing, and intervention in psychological science. During this period, the development and deployment of implicit measures have been predicated on a number of theoretical, methodological, and applied assumptions. Yet these assumptions are frequently violated and rarely met. As a result, the merit of research using implicit measures has increasingly been cast into doubt. In this article, we argue that future implicit measures research could benefit from adherence to four guidelines based on a functional approach wherein performance on implicit measures is described and analyzed as behavior emitted under specific conditions and captured in a specific measurement context. We unpack this approach and highlight recent work illustrating both its theoretical and practical value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S223-S242
JournalSocial Cognition
StatePublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Pieter Van Dessel and Jamie Cummins contributed equally. This manuscript is supported by the Scientific Research Foundation, Flanders under Grant FWO19/PDS/041 and by Ghent University under grants BOF16/MET_V/002 and 01P05517. The authors would like to thank all our present and past collaborators for the many discussions that shaped this article, foremost Jan De Houwer, for his continued support and critical insight, and Ian Hussey for valuable comments and contributions on drafts of this manuscript. Address correspondence concerning this article to Pieter Van Dessel or Jamie Cummins, Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium. E-mail: or

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Guilford Publications, Inc.


  • Automaticity
  • Behavior
  • Implicit measures
  • Levels of analysis


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