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Description: One of the most robust effects in person perception research is the spontaneous trait inference (STI) effect, defined as the spontaneous tendency to draw dispositional inferences from actors’ behaviors. Yet, research has suggested that stereotypes affect STIs by inhibiting stereotype incongruent or facilitating stereotype congruent STIs. These findings are remarkable considering (a) the robustness of STI effects and (b) the typical design of behavioral statements in this research as unambiguously indicative of traits. We present a series of four high-powered, preregistered experiments (N = 1004) that originally aimed at replicating stereotype effects on STIs as basis for investigating their underlying psychological mechanisms. We employed a probe recognition paradigm that has been used in prior research, pairing trait-implying behavioral statements with category labels implying either trait-congruent or -incongruent stereotypes. We additionally implemented several methodological improvements like a larger and extensively pretested stimulus set. While we observed highly robust STI effects in all experiments, these were largely unaffected by actor stereotypes: Only one of the four experiments showed the hypothesized STI-stereotype interaction with a small effect size. We discuss how these findings add to the rather small number of existing publications on STIs and stereotypes and how the observed robustness of behavior-based impressions parallels prior research on intentional impression formation. We aim to instigate debate, further theorizing, and research that enhances our understanding of the boundary conditions of stereotype effects on spontaneous trait inferences in impression formation from unambiguous behaviors.

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