Handbook of Interpersonal Psychology: Theory, Research, Assessment and Therapeutic Interventions

By Leonard M. Horowitz; Stephen Strack | Go to book overview

10
PERSON PERCEPTION, DISPOSITIONAL
INFERENCES, AND SOCIAL JUDGMENT

Daniel Leising

Peter Borkenau


PERSON PERCEPTION, DISPOSITIONAL
INFERENCES, AND SOCIAL JUDGMENT

Paula and Percy are managers at an international company. Now an influential business partner from Japan is about to pay them a visit, to negotiate some very important new contract with them. Paula and Percy would like to make their guest feel as comfortable as possible during his stay, but unfortunately both of them do not have much time. So they wonder which of their employees they should ask to take care of him (take him to dinner, show him around, etc.). “It should be someone who is really polite”, says Percy. “The Japanese value politeness a lot, you know. So whom should we pick? There’s Tracy, Terry, Tim, Todd, Tina. …”

Judgments like these constitute the focus of interest of a research field that is commonly referred to as “interpersonal perception” (Kenny, 1994). Researchers in this field study how people judge each others’ personality traits. Therein, the people who do the judgments (e.g., Paula and Percy) are often called “perceivers,” whereas the people who are being judged (e.g., Tracy, Terry, Tim, Todd, and Tina) are called “targets.” Research in interpersonal perception addresses questions like “Under what conditions will perceivers agree in judging the personality traits of targets?” or “Under what conditions will a perceiver’s judgments of targets’ personality traits be correct?” The first of these questions refers to what is commonly called “consensus,” whereas the second question refers to what is called “accuracy” (cf. Funder & West, 1993). In this chapter, we will give an overview of the factors that may affect consensus and accuracy in personality judgments. A third question (“Under what conditions will a perceiver’s judgments of targets’ personality traits agree with the targets’ own views of their personalities?”) refers to what is called “self-other agreement.” We will only occasionally touch on this issue, because it is more difficult to account for with the models that are used in the study of interpersonal perception (i.e., judgments that take place between people).

Personality judgments are highly relevant in everyday life. It seems that people do not judge each others’ personalities just for fun, but for a good reason. But what may that reason be? What is the advantage of

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