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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1997 Aug;73(2):229-41.

Looking for truth in all the wrong places? Asymmetric search of individuating information about stereotyped group members.

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Department of Psychology, New York University, New York 10012, USA.


Two experiments examined how category-based expectancies (CBEs) influence individuating information sought when trying to make accurate judgments about the attitudes of targets who were members of social categories that strongly or weakly implied the judged attitude. CBEs produced marked asymmetries in the number and content of participants' questions. Specifically, participants addressed fewer questions to stereotyped targets (STs) than to nonstereotyped targets (NSTs), thus acquiring relatively little individuating information about STs prior to judgement. Questions asked STs were diagnostically asymmetric-a response could better confirm than disconfirm the expected attitude, but questions to NSTs were diagnostically symmetric-a response could equally confirm or disconfirm the attitude. The authors discuss asymmetric search as a mechanism that may protect CBEs against disconfirmation independent of biased processing of acquired information.

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