The generalizability of salience effects

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Stimuli that engulf attention often have a disproportionately large impact on the judgment process, even when logically irrelevant. The present 3 studies, with a total of 279 undergraduates, examined the boundary conditions of such salience effects in a scenario where Ss observed a dyadic conversation in which the visual prominence of 1 of the 2 participants was manipulated. Two hypotheses were examined: (a) Salience effects are dependent on quantity of information encoded and disappear at low levels of attention, and (b) salience effects will disappear if higher involvement in the situation serves to heighten and focus attention on more relevant cues. Neither hypothesis was supported. Rather, salience effects were found (a) when the perceiver was distracted, (b) whether the perceiver's impressions were assessed immediately or after a delay, (c) when the conversation had high interest value, (d) regardless of the perceiver's cognitive tuning set, and (e) when the perceiver was involved in the discussion. It is concluded that salience effects are highly generalizable and that they have a significant impact on both trivial and important social judgments. It is suggested that salience effects are not customarily under the control of the social perceiver, but may be automatic. (15 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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