Stereotype Activation and Inhibition

By Robert S. Wyer Jr. | Go to book overview
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Inhibition of evaluatively inconsistent information facilitates perceptual selection processes, the same way as inhibition of descriptively inconsistent information does. By actively lowering accessibility of constructs, the probablity that these constructs will be used during perception will decrease. Diminished use of these constructs in turn will lead to judgments and impressions that are relatively simple, unequivocal, and, in general, easy to handle.

The inhibition effects discussed here, ranging from negative priming to inhibition of counterstereotypic traits, are functionally equivalent in the sense that these inhibitory processes are all aimed at reducing the complexity of stimulus imput. All of these mechanisms contribute to avoid the contents of consciousness to become an impenetrable mess. In our view, this is an important if not vital job.


Galen Bodenhausen and Neil Macrae presented an impressive model in which two complementary terms play a distinctive role: activation and inhibition. One of these is held in high esteem, whereas the other is held in low esteem. As we said in the beginning, Bodenhausen and Macrae made an effort to give inhibition its rightful place in social psychology. We hope that our modest qualifications and elaborations facilitate the recognition and use of inhibitory processes as explanatory concepts in social psychological theorizing. The building blocks of our brains are doing only two things: they excitate and they inhibit. We believe that, although more complex and more refined, many higher-order processes that are employing these building blocks will speak essentially the same language.


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Bargh J. A., Chaiken S., Raymond P., & Hymes C. ( 1996). The automatic evaluation effect: Unconditional automatic attitude activation with a pronunciation task. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 32,104-128.

Beech A. & Claridge G. ( 1987). Individual differences in negative priming: Relations with schizotypal personality types. British Journal of Psychology, 78,349-359.

Blaxton T. A., & Neely J. H. ( 1983). Inhibition from semantically related primes: Evidence of a category-specific inhibition. Memory and Cognition, 11,500-510.

Brunton T. L.( 1883). On the nature of inhibition, and the action of drugs upon it. Nature, 27, 419-422,436-439,467-468, 485-487.


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