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

By Robert S. Wyer | Go to book overview
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examined the consequences of attempts to avoid stereotypic modes of impression formation. In these studies, individuals attempted to not rely on categorical stereotypes while forming impressions of outgroup targets, instead basing their impressions on individuating behavioral information (i.e., they attempted to use the "behavioral observation" system, rather than the "categorization" system, to form an impression). The ironic consequence of this attempt to manage the impression-formation process was that, in devoting so much of their limited cognitive resources to the active suppression of their stereotypes, perceivers ended up paying less attention to the behavioral information on which they presumably wanted to base their impressions. Moreover, attempts at inhibiting stereotypic thoughts seemed to only make such thoughts hyperaccessible and likely to resurface later with greater vigor (see also Wegner Erber, 1992).

If metacognitive strategies for impressional control fail, the perceiver may simply have to learn to live with ambivalent cognitive representations. Certain individuals may even prefer ambivalent structures ( Kruglanski, 1989) because they fear the potential invalidity of their own conclusions if impressional closure is achieved. For such individuals, it is more comfortable playing both sides of the fence than risk being wrong. Langer ( 1993) argued that a tolerance for ambiguity and ambivalence may be adaptive, in that it may facilitate the identification of some new, viable options while minimizing the risk of prematurely foreclosing others. In any case, it is clear that Carlston's AST framework puts the issue of impressional coherence in a new light. It is our suspicion that empirical investigations of the intersystem coherence of impressions of persons and groups, inspired by the core ideas of AST, will reveal new and fundamental truths about the nature of humans'mental representations of their social worlds.


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


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