Associated Systems Theory: A Systematic Approach to Cognitive Representations of Persons

By Robert S. Wyer | Go to book overview

4
Some Ruminations About Associated Systems

Robert S. Wyer Jr. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The understanding of person-impression formation that has evolved from research in social cognition has generally been limited to the processing of verbal information, largely consisting of trait descriptions, social categorizations, or general characteristics of behavior (cf. Asch, 1946; Fiske & Neuberg, 1990; Higgins & Bargh, 1987; Srull & Wyer, 1989). For this reason alone, the Associated Systems Theory (AST) proposed by Carlston (chap. 1, this volume), which explicitly takes into account the role of visually coded information, affective reactions, and even one's own behavior toward the target of an impression, is an important advance. As one of Carlston's long-time collaborators and associates (cf. Hastie et al., 1980; Wyer & Carlston, 1979, 1994), I have never ceased to admire his willingness to cross traditional conceptual and empirical boundaries in the pursuit of new and fruitful ways to examine social phenomena, and this admiration is clearly maintained by the formulation presented in chapter 1. The development of this formulation is obviously an ambitious undertaking, and his success to date is impressive.

In this regard, Carlston readily acknowledges that the conceptualization outlined in his chapter does not purport to be a complete account of social information processing in general, or, for that matter, person-impression formation in particular. Rather, it must be viewed as preliminary to a rigorous and extensive treatment of impression-directed information processing. Even in its present form, however, Carlston views his model as an "explanatory and heuristic theory rather than as simply an integrative scheme" (p. 3).The model appears to attain this objective. On the one hand, the theory is unique in its potential to touch bases with the physiology of the

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