Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald is a contemporary social psychologist and the creator of the implicit association test. 

Professional Life

Anthony Greenwald studied at Yale University and received his bachelor’s degree in 1959. He went on to receive his master’s from Harvard and remained there until he earned his PhD in 1963. Greenwald began his teaching career at Ohio State University as an assistant professor of psychology in 1965, where he eventually advanced to full professor in 1971. Greenwald accepted a position as Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington in 1986 and still teaches there today. He has also served on the editorial board for more than a dozen psychological journals, including Psychological Review, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition, and Consciousness and Cognition.

Greenwald has spent much of his career studying persuasion and has received many awards for his contributions to psychology. These include the National Institute of Health’s Research Scientist Award, the Donald T. Campbell Award from the Society for Personal and Social Psychology, the Society of Experimental Social Psychology’s prestigious Distinguished Scientist Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Psychological Science.

Contribution to Psychology

The Implicit Association Test, created by Greenwald, Brian Nosek, Mahzarin Banaji and others, was developed in 1995 to test a person's implicit associations. The test functions by showing a test-taker images and a list of words, classified as good or bad. One image is paired with the word good and another is paired with the word bad on either side of the screen, and the test-taker must rapidly identify the category, or side, associated with each image or word that appears on the screen. Errors in pairing can indicate an implicit association, or bias, between two concepts. The Implicit Association Test is a popular Internet tool used by several websites to test subtle biases against minority groups such as women, people of color, and immigrants.

For example, a version of the test designed to recognize racial stereotypes provides test-takers with faces of dark-skinned and light-skinned people along with a variety of words categorized as good or bad. The right side of the screen may show a person with dark skin and the word 'good,' while the left side shows a person with light skin and the word 'bad.' Test-takers are instructed to rapidly associate each image that appears with the associated image on the right or left side of the screen and each word with the associated category on the right or left side of the screen. Incorrect pairings or delays in pairing words with words or words with images can indicate subtle prejudices. For example, the test might require a person to pair the term nasty, which has been categorized as ‘bad,’ with the image of a light-skinned person. If the test-taker doesn’t complete this task quickly or fails to pair the term with the image, this is taken as evidence that the test-taker has internalized cultural stereotypes.

Greenwald has also conducted research in social persuasion. His theory of a central route to persuasion argues that elaboration is key to persuasion. Elaboration enables the person receiving information to process the information more effectively, making it easier to discern the logical components of an argument. The process of elaboration allows people to witness the fact that strong arguments have strong evidence, making it easier for them to detect strong arguments.


  1. Anthony G. Greenwald, PhD. (n.d.). University of Washington faculty. Retrieved from:
  2. Project Implicit – Background. (n.d.). Project Implicit. Retrieved from:

Last Update: 07-22-2015

Advanced Search
Subscribe to's Email Newsletter

Free Student Membership

Are you a college or university student? Sign up here for a free student membership with