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You want to give a good impression? Be honest! Moral traits dominate group impression formation


Marco Brambilla, Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Piazza dell'Ateneo Nuovo 1, 20126-Milano, Italy (e-mail:


Research has shown that warmth and competence are core dimensions on which perceivers judge others and that warmth has a primary role at various phases of impression formation. Three studies explored whether the two components of warmth (i.e., sociability and morality) have distinct roles in predicting the global impression of social groups. In Study 1 (N= 105) and Study 2 (N= 112), participants read an immigration scenario depicting an unfamiliar social group in terms of high (vs. low) morality, sociability, and competence. In both studies, participants were asked to report their global impression of the group. Results showed that global evaluations were better predicted by morality than by sociability or competence-trait ascriptions. Study 3 (N= 86) further showed that the effect of moral traits on group global evaluations was mediated by the perception of threat. The importance of these findings for the impression-formation process is discussed.