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Perceiving the target's state or state provoked by the target? An analysis of the descriptive and evaluative knowledge in person perception


Astrid Mignon, Laboratoire URECA, UFR de Psychologie, Université Charles-de-Gaulle – Lille 3, Rue du barreau, 59650 Villeneuve d’Ascq, France (e-mail:


In line with the theory of traits as generalized affordances, the present article argues that target's states (TSs) and states provoked by a target (other's states (OSs) towards target) are two components of the meaning of traits referring, respectively, to a descriptive and to an evaluative knowledge of people. A preliminary study confirmed that TS and OS were equally representative of a trait. Two studies were designed to study the effects of practising the use of traits as either TS or OS categories (an induction procedure) on a subsequent person perception task, requiring participants to rate photographed targets on a series of traits. Results show that both the differentiation between targets and evaluative consistency of ratings were enhanced under the OS condition compared to TS and control (with no practice of traits) conditions. Importantly, Study 2 tends to show that the effects of the induction procedure are not limited to the practised traits but also generalize to unpractised traits. Implications of these findings for social perception research are discussed.