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Unformatted text preview: PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE Research Article VOL. 14, NO. 4, JULY 2003 Copyright © 2003 American Psychological Society 315 EFFECT OF SOCIAL CATEGORY PRIMING ON PERSONAL ATTITUDES Kerry Kawakami, 1 John F. Dovidio, 2 and Ap Dijksterhuis 3 1 University of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, the Netherlands; 2 Colgate University; and 3 University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Abstract— In four studies, we examined the spontaneous activation of specific attitudes related to social categories. These studies investi- gated whether priming participants with concepts associated with the elderly and skinheads influenced participants’ attitudes. The results consistently demonstrated that priming a social category can influ- ence people’s attitudes such that they become more similar to those of people in the primed category. After participants were primed with the elderly category, their attitudes became more conservative; after par- ticipants were primed with the skinhead category, their attitudes be- came more prejudiced. We also found that these effects can occur without awareness and intention and are specific to the participants’ own attitudes. The theoretical and practical implications of these find- ings are considered. Research on stereotyping has shown that social category priming can automatically activate general attitudes (Dovidio, Kawakami, Johnson, Johnson, & Howard, 1997; Fazio, Jackson, Dunton, & Wil- liams, 1995; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998) and specific per- sonality traits and physical characteristics (Blair, 2001; Devine, 1989; Kawakami, Dion, & Dovidio, 1998; Kawakami & Dovidio, 2001; Kawakami, Dovidio, Moll, Hermsen, & Russin, 2000). Even behav- iors associated with social categories are spontaneously activated upon presentation of a group representation. People who are primed with specific categories actually tend to act in ways congruent with the stereotypic actions associated with these groups (Bargh, Chen, & Bur- rows, 1996). For example, Dijksterhuis and van Knippenberg (1998) found that participants primed for 9 min with the category professor answered significantly more general knowledge questions correctly than did participants in control conditions. Theorizing on why these ideomotor effects occur, Chartrand, Mad- dux, and Lakin (in press) and Dijksterhuis and Bargh (2001) suggested that people demonstrate automatic behaviors because it is often func- tional to modify one’s behaviors to conform to the social environment. For instance, spontaneously activating behaviors associated with a so- cial category upon presentation of that category and behaving in ways congruent with this representation can facilitate social interactions....
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