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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998 Sep;75(3):589-606.

Stereotype efficiency reconsidered: encoding flexibility under cognitive load?

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Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208-2710, USA.


According to the encoding flexibility model, stereotypes are efficient because they facilitate, in different ways, the encoding of both stereotype-consistent and stereotype-inconsistent information when capacity is low. Because stereotypical information is conceptually fluent, it may be easily understood, even when resources are scant. As a result, processing resources may shift from stereotypical toward counterstereotypical information, which is difficult to comprehend under such conditions. Thus, whereas inconsistent information receives greater attention (Experiments 1-3) and perceptual encoding (Experiment 4) when resources are depleted, the conceptual meaning of consistent information is extracted to a greater degree under such conditions (Experiment 5). Potential moderating roles of stereotype strength and perceiver motivations are discussed, as are the implications of these results for dual process models of stereotyping.

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