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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Stereotype strength and attentional bias: Preference for confirming versus disconfirming information depends on processing capacity

  • Author(s): Allen, TJ
  • Sherman, JW
  • Conrey, FR
  • Stroessner, SJ
  • et al.

In two experiments, we investigated the relationships among stereotype strength, processing capacity, and the allocation of attention to stereotype-consistent versus stereotype-inconsistent information describing a target person. The results of both experiments showed that, with full capacity, greater stereotype strength was associated with increased attention toward stereotype-consistent versus stereotype-inconsistent information. However, when capacity was diminished, greater stereotype strength was associated with increased attention toward inconsistent versus consistent information. Thus, strong stereotypes may act as self-confirming filters when processing capacity is plentiful, but as efficient information gathering devices that maximize the acquisition of novel (disconfirming) information when capacity is depleted. Implications for models of stereotyping and stereotype change are discussed. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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