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An Exploratory Study on the Development of an Implicit Measure of Implicit Followership Theory Using the Implicit Association Test


The purpose of this study was to develop and validate an implicit measure of implicit followership theory (IFT), and to investigate its behavioral outcomes. Validation of an implicit measure of IFT would complement the only existing explicit IFT measure (Sy, 2010). I developed an implicit measure of IFT using a variant of the Implicit Association Test (IAT; Greenwald, McGhee, & Swartz, 1998) called the Single-target IAT (Karpinski & Steinman, 2006). The Single-target IAT IFT measure was tested across three studies using student and employee samples. The pilot study assessed the content and criterion validity of the implicit measure. Study 1 assessed the construct (convergent and discriminant) validity of the implicit measure with student and employee samples. Study 2 assessed the predictive validity of the implicit measure in a simulated leader-follower interaction task.

Results across three studies do not support validation of the Single-target IAT IFT measure. Overall, the recurring pattern of non-significant relationships across all three studies indicates the measure in its current form is unsuitable as an implicit measure of IFT.

Despite these results, another implicit measure of IFT, the projective IFT (Sy, 2013) provided preliminary evidence that a projective approach can be successfully used to capture individuals' IFTs. Notably, the projective IFT was significantly correlated with various criterion and discriminant measures, including but not limited to: entity theory of followers, positive and negative affect, conscientiousness, job performance, and job satisfaction. The projective IFT was also significantly correlated with several behaviors such as frowning, competence, and hostility.

This study has two main contributions. First, this study provides valuable feedback about Single-target IATs and IATs, both of which are relatively young scientific methods. At a minimum, the results will lead to greater utility and design of the IAT or implicit measures. From a broader perspective, my hope is that these results will advance our theoretical understanding of implicit measures. Second, this study contributes to the field by demonstrating support for the projective IFT. Results from three independent samples indicate the projective IFT measure is a viable, implicit measure of IFT.

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