Traits and Social Stereotypes: Levels of Categorization in Person Perception

Susan M. Andersen, Roberta L. Klatzky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A theoretical distinction is made between trait categorization in person perception and categorization by means of well-articulated, concrete social stereotypes. Three studies test the prediction that social stereotypes are both more associatively rich and more distinctive than are trait-defined categories. In Study 1, subjects sorted adjectives related to extraversion and introversion. A cluster analysis using similarity measures derived from the sorting indicated that distinct social stereotypes were associated with each trait. This supports and extends earlier findings (Cantor & Mischel, 1979). In Study 2, subjects generated attributes of the trait categories and stereotypes that emerged in Study 1. More nonredundant attributes, especially visible features, were listed for the stereotypes than for the trait categories. Study 3 elicited the explicit associative structure of traits and related stereotypes by having subjects rate the association between a series of attributes (derived from the responses in Study 2) and each category label. Results showed that social stereotypes have distinctive features that are not shared with the related trait category, whereas trait categories share virtually all of their features with related stereotypes. The implications of the trait/stereotype distinction for social information processing are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-246
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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