The effect of anxiety on impression formation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] The anxiety-assimilation hypothesis (Wilder, 1993) and the capacity constraint plus control motivation model (Fiske & Morling, 1996) predict that anxiety causes people to form more stereotypic impressions of others. Affect-as-information (Schwarz & Clore, 1983) and affect-priming (Bower, 1991) theories predict that anxiety causes people to form affect-congruent (i.e., more threatening) impressions of others. A novel research paradigm was used in Experiment 1 to separate the predictions of these two classes of theories, recognizing that their predictions were not mutually exclusive. Experiment 1 found that anxious persons formed more threatening, but not more stereotypic, impressions of a target person. This result replicated in Experiment 2, with a different population and a different anxiety manipulation. In addition, Experiment 2 found that the anxiety-congruent bias in impression formation was limited to participants? ratings of traits that corresponded to the information presented about the target. The results of Experiments 1 and 2 were taken as support for an affect-priming rather than affect-as-information account of the effect of anxiety on impression formation. Experiments 3 and 4 investigated anxiety effects on encoding and recall that underlie affect-priming explanation of affect-congruent impression judgment biases. Experiment 3 found that anxious participants spent more time encoding non-stereotypic information and recalled less stereotypic information than non-anxious participants. In Experiment 4 anxious participants again recalled less stereotypic information. This study also found that anxious participants? recall and impression judgments were affect-congruent. ... As predicted by the modified affect-as-information theory, the affect-attribution manipulation left participants? anxiety levels unaltered but it did attenuate the anxiety-congruent impression bias. In addition, anxious participants in this study recalled less stereotypic than non-stereotypic information. The findings of this thesis raised several new questions and theoretical challenges. The new experimental paradigms that were used to examine the questions in this thesis will also allow the examination of the interplay of stereotypes and valence in judgments in future research for persons in affective states other than anxiety. Such research would allow for the continued revision and development of theories of affect and social cognition.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2002


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