Social categorization and fit detection under cognitive load: efficient or effortful?



Participants perceived a discussion between members of two social categories in a name-matching paradigm. Discussions either exhibited inter-category fit, defined as a covariation of category membership and the category members' attitude positions, or not. Orthogonally, there was cognitive load at encoding, load at retrieval, or no concurrent load. Memory for the statements and memory for the speaker of a statement were affected by load with little evidence for fit effects. Conversely, category memory, reconstructive category guessing and perceived fit were affected by inter-category fit with little evidence for load effects. The results suggest that category activation is sensitive to inter-category fit and that fit detection is robust against moderate amounts of cognitive load. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.