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Contrast Effects as Determined by the Type of Prime: Trait Versus Exemplar Primes Initiate Processing Strategies that Differ in How Accessible Constructs are Used

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In 4 experiments it was found that contrast effects in person perception depend on the type and extremity of the primed information. Two previous models of priming effects, the standard-of-comparison and the set–reset models, make opposing predictions for the consequences of prime extremity on contrast effects. In Experiments 1 and 2 it was found that each model is descriptively accurate but in response to different priming stimuli. Exemplar primes (e.g., Dracula) produced greater contrast when extreme than when moderate, a pattern consistent with the standard-of-comparison model. Trait term primes (e.g., malevolent) produced greater contrast when moderate than when extreme, which is consistent with the set-reset model. In Experiments 3 and 4 it was demonstrated that the mechanisms through which contrast is produced are distinct for the 2 types of primes. Standard-of-comparison contrast is more perceptual and is not disrupted by cognitive load; set–reset contrast is effortful and requires sufficient cognitive capacity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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... That is, if someone believes there has been an undesired influence on their judgment, they may simply try to gauge the direction and amount of that influence and, essentially, subtract it out. Ironically, such attempts to adjust the judgment to remove the influence bias our judgments when our theory about how we have been influenced is not precise (e.g., Martin, 1986;Moskowitz & Skurnik, 1999;Strack & Hannover, 1996;Wegener & Petty, 1995;Wilson & Brekke, 1994). The attempt to adjust a judgment by removing the parts one believes may have been incorrectly applied will often result in a contrast effect where the new impression is pushed too far in the opposite direction from the original assessment. ...
... Research shows that, under certain conditions, prime-target similarity can cause contrast effects-judgment bias in the opposite direction to the prime's valence or trait. Specifically, in the commonly used paradigm in impression formation research-wherein judgment is unhurried and primes appear separately from the judgment task-primes cause contrast effects when perceived as comparable to the targets (Aarts & Dijksterhuis, 2002;LeBoeuf & Estes, 2004;Moskowitz & Skurnik, 1999). ...
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