Lay dispositionism and implicit theories of personality

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1997 Jul;73(1):19-30. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.73.1.19.


Lay dispositionism refers to lay people's tendency to use traits as the basic unit of analysis in social perception (L. Ross & R. E. Nisbett, 1991). Five studies explored the relation between the practices indicative of lay dispositionism and people's implicit theories about the nature of personal attributes. As predicted, compared with those who believed that personal attributes are malleable (incremental theorists), those who believed in fixed traits (entity theorists) used traits or trait-relevant information to make stronger future behavioral predictions (Studies 1 and 2) and made stronger trait inferences from behavior (Study 3). Moreover, the relation between implicit theories and lay dispositionism was found in both the United States (a more individualistic culture) and Hong Kong (a more collectivistic culture), suggesting this relation to be generalizable across cultures (Study 4). Finally, an experiment in which implicit theories were manipulated provided preliminary evidence for the possible causal role of implicit theories in lay dispositionism (Study 5).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morals
  • Personality
  • Personality Assessment
  • Social Perception*