Implicit Response Test (IRT)

What is an Implicit Response Test (IRT)?

Every fundraiser knows what a challenge it can be to find out what people truly think and feel. Factors like social desirability might cause people to over- or understate their feelings or exclude details they consider private or irrelevant.  Because of this, self-report measures like surveys and interviews can sometimes be unreliable.

Implicit Response Tests (IRTs) were developed by social psychologists as a way to bypass self-report and increase reliability, so you can get a better picture of what your potential donors really believe.

What does response time have to do with feelings and opinions?

When people make decisions or answer questions, they rely on one of two mental processes:

  1. The Slow Route (occurs after 500-600ms): When you process information slowly and think before you make a decision or answer questions, you are using your conscious mind. This results in a thought-out, controlled answer from the intellectual part of your mind. Most people use the slow processing route when answering survey or interview questions, which we know can bias their responses.
  2. The Quick Route (occurs before 500-600ms): When you answer a question automatically or make a snap decision, you’re relying on the subconscious mind, drawing on mental shortcuts including stored information and beliefs you’ve formed over the years. These quick route responses are automatic and beyond a person’s conscious control. Because they happen almost automatically, quick route answers represent a person’s instinctual, deeply-held beliefs about someone or something.

How does IRT work?

It takes a moment for people to think about and answer questions in a typical survey. The longer they think about their answer, the less reliable the answer becomes. The faster a person answers a question, the more likely it is that their answer actually reflects how they implicitly think and feel.

IRT works by encouraging respondents to use the quick processing route to answer questions about a stimulus, increasing the chances that those answers reflect each person’s true beliefs and feelings. IRT quantifies individuals’ reactions to stimuli in terms of response time.

While tests involving reaction times can be traced back to the 1860s, recent advancements in cognitive psychology have brought a renewed focus on the importance of measuring respondents’ true subconscious responses.  Simultaneous advances in technology allow us to present respondents with questions on electronic devices that monitor the exact time it takes them to answer. A hesitation of even a fraction of a second indicates that they weren’t confident in their answer.

How can IRT help your organization?

IRT tests are a great way to get answers to questions like:

  • What do potential donors really think of your organization? (Do they trust you? Do they know what work you are doing? Do they feel the work you are doing is important?)
  • What associations come to mind in relation to your organization, both positive and negative? (Are there potential red flags or pots of gold that will hinder or help your fundraising efforts?)
  • What do potential donors think about your campaign or fundraising materials? (Do they truly believe they will donate because of it?)
  • What do potential donors think about individual elements in your campaign, like the talent, narrative, music, or other factors? (Did they engage with the story? Do they like the host or person you highlighted?)

Want to learn more?

There are many articles and books on the science behind Implicit Response Tests and their application in neuro-marketing. Here is one of our favorites:

Contact us today to find out how Moore DM Group’s Neuro-Fundraising Lab can put our IRT technology to work for your organization.