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Abstract

Recent research has explored the dynamics of categorical thinking, with debate centering on the putative automaticity of this process. In a further investigation of this topic, the current inquiry assessed the influence of critical category-cueing facial features on overt (i.e., category identification) and covert (i.e., category priming) measures of sex categorization. The results revealed that when a critical sex-specifying facial cue (i.e., hairstyle) was present, priming effects emerged even under suboptimal processing conditions (i.e., facial blurring). When this cue was absent, however, priming no longer occurred. Interestingly, category identification was largely unimpeded by feature removal or facial blurring. Taken together, these results underscore the efficiency of categorical thinking and the importance of task objectives and feature-based processing in person perception. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.