Violations of implicit theories and the sense of prediction and control: implications for motivated person perception

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2005 Feb;88(2):245-62. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.88.2.245.


Beginning with the assumption that implicit theories of personality are crucial tools for understanding social behavior, the authors tested the hypothesis that perceivers would process person information that violated their predominant theory in a biased manner. Using an attentional probe paradigm (Experiment 1) and a recognition memory paradigm (Experiment 2), the authors presented entity theorists (who believe that human attributes are fixed) and incremental theorists (who believe that human attributes are malleable) with stereotype-relevant information about a target person that supported or violated their respective theory. Both groups of participants showed evidence of motivated, selective processing only with respect to theory-violating information. In Experiment 3, the authors found that after exposure to theory-violating information, participants felt greater anxiety and worked harder to reestablish their sense of prediction and control mastery. The authors discuss the epistemic functions of implicit theories of personality and the impact of violated assumptions.

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Female
  • Forecasting*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Motivation*
  • Perception*
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stereotyping
  • Surveys and Questionnaires