Stereotype Congruence and the Process of Person Perception
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Description: Dynamic models of impression formation posit that bottom-up factors (e.g., a target’s facial features) and top-down factors (e.g., perceiver knowledge of stereotypes) continuously interact over time until a stable categorization or impression emerges. Most prior work on the dynamic resolution of judgments over time has focused on either categorization (e.g., “is this person male/female?”) or specific trait impressions (e.g., “is this person trustworthy?”). In two mousetracking studies—exploratory (N = 226) and confirmatory (N = 300)—we test a domain-general effect of cultural stereotypes shaping the process underlying impressions of targets. We find that the trajectories of participants’ mouse movements gravitate toward impressions congruent with stereotypes. For example, to the extent that a participant reports knowledge of a “Black men are less [trait]” stereotype, their mouse trajectory initially gravitates toward categorizing individual Black male faces as “less [trait]”, regardless of their final judgment of the target.