The anxious and the unexpected: preliminary evidence that anxiety reduces counter-stereotype, but not stereotype, activation during impression formation

Andrew Russ

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated abstract] There is some consensus in the social psychology literature that people who are anxious will rely more heavily on social stereotypes when making social decisions and forming impressions (Wilder, 1983; Baron et al., 1992; Friedland et al., 1999). However, the empirical evidence that exists is unclear as to whether anxiety increases stereotyping by influencing person-categorization, stereotype activation or stereotype application (or one or more of these stages). Study 1 adapted an impression formation task used by Curtis & Locke (2005), in order to determine whether anxiety increases stereotype activation during impression formation. Participants performed an anxiety induction task, formed impressions of an Australian Aboriginal, performed a measure of stereotype-related (i.e., counter-stereotypic and stereotypic) activation, reported their impressions, and then completed measures of prejudice and both state- and trait-anxiety. While forming impressions, participants were asked to memorize the sentences and use them to form an impression of the target. The results, in Study 1, showed that counter-stereotypes were more active than stereotypes for control participants, but counter-stereotypes and stereotypes were similarly active for those in the anxiety condition. These effects only occurred for high prejudice participants. In Study 2, two different instructions were used. Participants were asked either to form impressions during the behavioural sentence task or to simply memorize the sentences. Except for this instruction factor, all methods were the same as Study 1. The pattern observed in Study 1 was reproduced in Study 2, but only in the impression formation condition. In Study 2, counter-stereotypes were again more activated than stereotypes for control participants, and counter-stereotypes and stereotypes were similarly activated in the anxiety condition.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012

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