Research has found the dimensions of warmth and competence to be subject to a negative relation when two targets are compared, a phenomenon which has been called the compensation effect. However, all the available empirical evidence rests on direct traits ratings. The aim of the present work is to test whether compensation is merely a response strategy or whether it has larger implications. In two experiments, we show that the compensation effect is also obtained on indirect measures that rely on attribution theory (Experiment 1) and on implicit measures derived from the Linguistic Category Model (Experiment 2). Results are discussed in terms of the importance of the compensation effect and its consequences on the interpretation of newly acquired information about social targets. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.