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On the inferential epistemics of trait centrality in impression formation

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Abstract

We provide a novel, inferential, account of the trait centrality phenomenon. We suggest that a trait possesses the property of “centrality” to the extent that it is subjectively deemed to imply other traits. Five studies explore four central elements of this view. First, trait relations can be stored as unidirectional rules (“if X then Y” but not necessarily “if Y then X”). Second, the strength of individuals' lay inference rules determines the effect of traits on impressions. Third, situationally manipulating the strength of lay inference rules influences the impact of traits on impressions. Fourth, the impact of an inference rule is reduced when it is difficult to discern the inference rule and when processing resources are limited. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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