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Keywords:

  • variability judgment;
  • category size;
  • category exemplars;
  • stereotyping

Abstract: Competing predictions about the effects of category size on judgments of category variability were examined in two studies involving the presentation of exemplars of two artificial social groups. In contrast to predictions of some exemplar-based models, Experiment 1 demonstrated that a numerically smaller group was perceived to be more variable than a larger group on the standard deviation measure of frequency distribution estimates. The result was interpreted to be an effect of differential information load. Experiment 2 revealed that variability judgments were influenced by prior expectations about the central tendencies as well as by practice in retrieving information about category exemplars. When frequency distribution estimates were made subsequent to abstract tasks, expectations about the numerical majority reduced perceived variability, while this influence was mitigated when memory measures preceded the frequency estimates.