Stereotyping and action tendencies attribution as a function of available emotional information

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Abstract

In three experiments, we addressed the role of stereotypes in the attribution of action tendencies in intergroup contexts. We hypothesized that stereotyping would affect the attribution of action tendencies to out-group members. Participants were presented with a facial expression displayed by either an in-group or an out-group member, followed by the presentation of a label describing an action tendency. They were then asked whether the label corresponded to the feeling state of the expresser. Study 1 tested whether stereotypes influence the attribution of action tendencies to out-group members. Study 2 tested whether stereotype application varies as a function of the emotional information contained in the facial stimuli (i.e. neutral vs. emotional). Finally, Study 3 tested whether stereotype activation is indirectly determined by a difference in morphology between in-group and out-group members or directly determined by the expresser's group membership. As predicted, an increase in attribution of stereotypic action tendencies was observed for out-group expressers. The application of stereotypes was specifically observed when facial expressions were neutral as compared to emotional and was independent of morphological differences between in-group and out-group faces. Such biases in interpreting out-group members feeling states may play a crucial role in the maintenance of intergroup prejudice. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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