Cognitive processes in implicit personality trait inferences

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The cognitive processes by which people infer whether individuals who possess one trait also possess another were examined in 2 reaction time experiments with a total of 66 undergraduates. Ss took less time to affirm and more time to deny that 2 traits co-occurred, the greater the semantic similarity of the traits. As the amount of recalled evidence required to affirm that 2 traits co-occurred was increased by altering the nature of the co-occurrence statements, true response times increased and false response times decreased. Although it was not possible to determine whether the stored semantic “features” of a trait are locations on meaning dimensions, specific behaviors, known people characterized by the trait, or something else, results strongly suggest that implicit personality inferences result from a 2-stage process in which the 2nd and more detailed memory search stage is entered only if the similarity of the semantic features of the traits falls between 2 task-established decision criteria. (28 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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