People as resources: Exploring the functionality of warm and cold

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Abstract

We propose a motivational model of impression formation—people as resources—as a way to understand what information perceivers seek in their interpersonal world. Prior work has established that the warm–cold dimension is fundamental to impression formation. Building on other functional approaches, we suggest that the attributes warm and cold are important because they predict the direction of target resource use in interpersonal relationships—whether a person's valued resources are likely (warm) or unlikely (cold) to be used for the benefit of the perceiver. In two studies, the warmth or coldness of a target influenced impressions more when the target did versus did not possess a valued resource. This effect was replicated across two studies using two different types of resources—competence (Study 1) and a material resource (Study 2). Implications of the model for understanding the motivations that underlie social perception are discussed. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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