Perceived Control as a Moderator of the Prototype Effect in the Perception of Discrimination


Alexandra F. Corning, Department of Psychology, 118 Haggar Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556. E-mail:


Whether an individual's behavior is perceived as discriminatory has a great deal to do with the characteristics of the individual. The prototype effect refers to the finding that individuals who match people's prototypes of the typical executor of a particular kind of discrimination (e.g., the prototypical sex discriminator is male) are much more likely to receive attributions of discrimination than are nonprototypical executors. The motivated social cognition perspective, however, suggests that people's subjective needs will influence the extent to which they rely on simplified cognitive abstractions. The results of this study indicate that people's subjective perceptions of control over discrimination in their lives moderate the influence of the prototype effect on perceptions of discrimination in ambiguous situations.