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Description: Social cognition has been argued to rely on automatic mechanisms, but little is known about how automatically the processing of body shapes is linked to other social processes, such as trait inference. In three pre-registered experiments, we tested the automaticity of links between body shape perception and trait inference by manipulating cognitive load during a response- competition task. In Experiment 1 (N = 52), participants categorised body shapes in the context of compatible or incompatible trait words, under high and low cognitive load. Bayesian multi- level modelling of reaction times indicated that interference caused by the compatibility of trait cues was insensitive to concurrent demands placed on working memory resources. These findings indicate that the linking of body shapes and traits is resource-light and more “automatic” in this sense. In Experiment 2 (N = 39) and 3 (N = 70), we asked participants to categorise trait words in the context of task-irrelevant body shapes. Under these conditions, no evidence of interference was found, regardless of concurrent load. These results suggest that while body shapes and trait concepts can be linked in an automatic manner, such processes are sensitive to wider contextual factors, such as the order in which information is presented.


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