Social consensus and the encoding of consistent and inconsistent information: when one's future audience orients information processing



The present study investigated whether and how social consensus affects the way perceivers encode information concerning a deviant member of a stereotyped group. Participants formed an impression of a gay person described by means of both positive and negative behaviours. Participants also learned that they had to communicate their impression to an unidentified audience whose stereotype about gays was unknown or to an ingroup audience which was presented to be either positive or negative about gays. Results indicated that participants who ignored the identity of the audience and its position towards gays devoted more time to examine the information than participants who had been informed about the audience and its opinion about gays. More importantly, participants spent less (more) time to encode information that was in line (at odds) with the stereotype of the audience. Results are discussed in terms of the interplay between cognitive and social factors in general, and of recent evidence about inconsistency-resolution effect and consensual beliefs in particular. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.