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construing and constructing others

construing and constructing others - Construing and...

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Interaction Studies 6:1 (2005), 53–67 . issn 1572–0373 / e-issn 1572–0381 © John Benjamins Publishing Company Construing and constructing others On the reality and the generality of the behavioral confirmation scenario Mark Snyder and Olivier Klein University of Minnesota / Université Libre de Bruxelles When individuals (as perceivers) hold expectations about other people (as targets), they can elicit from these targets behaviors that are consistent with their expectations, even if these expectations are independent of the target’s real characteristics. In this paper, we consider the role that this phenomenon, known as behavioral confirmation, plays in shaping the social perceptions of perceivers, targets, and outside observers. As well, we address the value of laboratory research on behavioral confirmation for understanding the dynamics and outcomes of social interactions in naturally occurring settings. Building on these considerations, we then examine the role of behavioral confirmation phenomena in shaping intergroup relations, with particular reference to delineating conditions in which such phenomena serve to pre- serve these relations. Based on this analysis, we suggest that dyadic confirma- tion phenomena are likely to occur in naturally occurring settings and may contribute to the maintenance and perpetuation of social stereotypes and societal structures. Keywords: behavioral confirmation, self-fulfilling prophecies, stereotypes, person perception, social judgment At the time of this writing, in mid-2004, it is not difficult to imagine an Ameri- can soldier serving in Iraq holding negative expectations about the Iraqi peo- ple. This soldier might believe that the people of Iraq are extremely aggressive and do not adhere to the same moral standards as Americans. In dealing with individual Iraqis, this soldier may act in offensive ways, perhaps by threaten- ing them physically, or by placing them in degrading postures. As a result of being treated in such a fashion, these Iraqis may in turn experience heightened
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54 Mark Snyder and Olivier Klein hostility towards this soldier. As a consequence, given the opportunity, these Iraqis may actually act in aggressive ways towards this soldier and other Amer- icans. If so, the American soldier’s expectations may be confirmed as a result of interactions with Iraqis. In this example, a belief that was “subjectively” real (from the American soldier’s perspective) instigated a series of behaviors on the part of the perceiv- er (the soldier) and these behaviors induced the targets of these expectations (individual Iraqis) to enact the perceiver’s initial beliefs, thereby making them “objectively” real. This sequence of events illustrates a reality-constructing pro- cess by which an individual’s beliefs about another person may, in the course of social interaction, come to be confirmed by the behavior of that other per- son. This process is referred to as behavioral confirmation (Snyder & Stukas, 1999).
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