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Continuum model of impression formation
(Fiske & Neuberg)

1) When we meet someone we make an initial categorization – what we think of this person is based on stereotypes; we just put them in a category.

2) We then pay attention and see if that person actually fits into that category. If there is available info that supports this categorization we keep that person in that category but if person doesn’t fit in category, then we recategorize that person.

3) Recategorization
 Subcategory: there are subcategories of general categories (example Women: mothers, athletes, businesswomen…)
 Exemplars: if person resembles someone we know, we attribute certain attributes to them.
 Self concept: if someone is similar to us, we project our own qualities on to them.
• (this is not pure category based… we are moving down the continuum to more individualized)
• If someone doesn’t fit into category after recategorization we move on to piecemeal integration.

4) Piecemeal Integration: if someone doesn’t fit into category – we pull together all different attributes and that’s how we think of person

5) Our impression of people can change and then we go through this model again.
 Some people argue that we don’t always start with categories. Depending on what is more accessible we either begin with individual or category based.


Research that conflicts with continuum model of Impression Formation

Processing of category and individual features may occur simultaneously

E.g. from Zurati: two types of processing happening at once
→ right hemisphere of brain (feature integration and thus exemplar, person-based representations)

→left hemisphere (identifies commonalities and thus more abstract group-level representations (prototypes)).


Intergroup issues

We tend to spend more time forming impressions of our own group (race, class etc.)

Goals for interaction differ between groups
• e.g. white person trying to not look racist when meeting African-Americans



Group you are meeting has stereotype about your group
• "here's how they think about me" mindset going into the interaction

If someone is similar to us, we project our qualities onto them

If dissimilar, we attribute stereotypes


The role of priming in impression formation

Higgins’ study, 1977
• Read a list of either pos. or neg. words, then read a story about 'Donald'
• Those who had read pos. words first, reported liking Donald more
• This connection occurs at an unconscious level

Chronically accessible constructs
• Influences our perception of others

Perceiver Effects
e.g. some view a majority of people as goodhearted, others claims humanity is selfish
Impression is informed by beliefs of perceiver


How do impressions change over time?

As you spend more time with someone in different settings, our impressions get more complex

Impressions become less general (“she friendly to “on Friday night she is…”) →traits can change in different situations


Snowball Effect

Initial impression influences the dynamics of an interaction such that the interaction verifies that initial impression


Self fulfilling prophecy: Snyder

Attractive vs unattractive conversation partners:
Female and male talk over intercom – men are told certain things about female.

Some get a picture of an attractive woman and sometimes the pic is of an unattractive woman. Then male need to rate person.

More favorable impression when the woman is attractive

More interestingly, when researchers took only female side of the conversation and played it to naïve judges, the judges also rated the supposedly attractive woman better than the other.
**This may be bc the male is treating her nicer and so those judges pick up on that


Chameleon effect

The unconscious mimicry of the postures, mannerisms, facial expressions and other behaviors of one’s interaction partners – such that one’s behavior passively and unintentionally changes to match that of others in ones current social environment

Chartran and Bars:
• Participants come in to work on a task with confederate. The confederate is trained to do a certain thing and the subject showed the same mannerism.
• Told person to copy the confederate → increased liking

Why do we do this?
• From an evolutionary standpoint it might be advantageous for us to build rapport

Clinical: match clients stance and posture to build rapport
• Counselor empathy

Dominance/submissiveness complementarity
• People are more comfortable when one gravitates towards a dominant stance and one to a submissive stance


Self-fulfilling Prophecy: Rosenthal

Rosenthal’s study on academic spurts

Told teachers they had a revolutionary test that could predict if a child would have an academic growth spurt soon

Teachers began to treat these students differently, directly causing growth spurts within these children → their previous beliefs drove future events


Self-fulfilling Prophecy: Copeland & Snyder, 1995
Clinical Implications

Told participants patients were either extroverted or introverted, and asked to diagnosis

Diagnosis fit the description of what they were told even if there was no evidence for it