Three experiments obtained evidence that spontaneous trait inferences (STIs) occur on-line, at encoding. In each, participants read many sentences on a computer screen. After each paragraph, they indicated whether it included a test probe word. Paragraphs that imply but do not contain traits should increase errors or reaction times (RTs) to trait probes. In Experiment 1, trait-implying paragraphs produced more errors than control paragraphs, supporting the hypothesis. In Experiments 2 and 3, with feedback on each trial, longer RTs supported the hypothesis. STIs had the same effects as McKoon and Ratcliffs "predicting inferences." Unexpectedly, participants gained control over STIs and predicting inferences, so that RT differences (and error differences in Experiment 1) declined over trials. Analyses of reading times in Experiment 3 ruled out several alternative explanations. Results demonstrate that social inferences can occur spontaneously at encoding and suggest that immediate feedback may make control possible.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology