Spontaneous trait transference: communicators taken on the qualities they describe in others

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998 Apr;74(4):837-48. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.74.4.837.


Spontaneous trait transference occurs when communicators are perceived as possessing the very traits they describe in others. Study 1 confirmed that communicators become associated with the trait implications of their descriptions of others and that such associations persist over time. Study 2 demonstrated that these associations influence specific trait impressions of communicators. Study 3 suggested that spontaneous trait transference reflects simple associative processes that occur even when there are no logical bases for making inferences. Finally, Study 4 used more naturalistic stimuli and provided additional evidence that the phenomenon reflects mindless associations rather than logical attributions. Together these studies demonstrate that spontaneous trait transference is a reliable phenomenon that plays a previously unrecognized role in social perception and interaction.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Association*
  • Communication*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indiana
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Models, Psychological
  • Ohio
  • Paired-Associate Learning
  • Social Perception*
  • Time Factors