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Abstract

In previous research on the effects of accessible information on social judgments, divergent explanations have been offered for contrast effects that occur as a consequence of prime awareness. Some authors favor a comparison explanation, whereas others favor a correction explanation. In two studies, we successfully disentangled comparison and correction contrast by demonstrating that whereas correction for unwanted influences is a general process that leads to contrast on various dimensions on which a target is judged, comparison effects are prime specific and occur mainly on comparison relevant dimensions. In addition, our findings indicate that for correction attempts to occur and succeed, respondents must have the feeling that these primes contaminate their target judgments and should be removed from their “true” reaction to the target. When people are not suspicious of the potential contaminating influences of priming stimuli, prime awareness is more likely to lead to prime-target comparisons than to correction efforts. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.