Person theories and attention allocation: preferences for stereotypic versus counterstereotypic information

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2001 Jun;80(6):876-93.


How do people respond to information that counters a stereotype? Do they approach it or avoid it? Four experiments showed that attention to stereotype-consistent vs. -inconsistent information depends on people's implicit theories about human traits. Those holding an entity theory (the belief that traits are fixed) consistently displayed greater attention to (Experiments 1 and 4) and recognition of (Experiments 2 and 3) consistent information. whereas those holding an incremental (dynamic) theory tended to display greater attention to (Experiment 1) and recognition of (Experiment 3) inconsistent information. This was true whether implicit theories were measured as chronic structures (Experiments 1, 2, and 4) or were experimentally manipulated (Experiment 3). Thus, different a priori assumptions about human traits and behavior lead to processing that supports versus limits stereotype maintenance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Cognitive Dissonance*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Personality*
  • Problem Solving
  • Social Perception*
  • Stereotyping*