Stereotypes as Energy-Saving Devices: A Peek Inside the Cognitive Toolbox

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Abstract

By use of a dual-task paradigm, 3 studies investigated the contention that stereotypes function as resource-preserving devices in mental life. In Study 1, Ss formed impressions of targets while simultaneously monitoring a prose passage. The results demonstrated a significant enhancement in Ss' prose-monitoring performance when stereotype labels were present on the impression-formation task. To investigate the intentionality of this effect, in Study 2, the procedures used in Study 1 were repeated using a subliminal priming procedure to activate stereotypes. Subliminal activation of stereotypes produced the same resource-preserving effects as supraliminal activation did. This effect, moreover, was replicated in Study 3 when a probe reaction task was used to measure resource preservation. These findings, which generalized across a range of social stereotypes, are discussed in terms of their implications for contemporary models of stereotyping and social inference.

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