Lay perceptions of inconsistency in person perception




Buettner, Skylar Macall

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What information do people perceive as inconsistent with their impressions of social targets? Although perceptions of inconsistency play a critical role in impression updating, there has been a surprising lack of research aimed toward understanding what information people perceive as inconsistent with their impressions of others. To fill in this gap in understanding, the goal of the papers comprising the current dissertation is to understand what information-related and perceiver-related factors influence the extent to which people perceive a new piece of information as inconsistent with their impression of a social target. Utilizing a memory-based measure of expectancy-violation and a self-report measure of perceived inconsistency, Paper 1 investigated the extent to which (1) dimensions of social information (i.e., warmth and competence) and (2) valence influence perceptions of inconsistency. The results of Paper 1 suggest that valence drives perceptions of inconsistency, regardless of whether this information reflects warmth or competence. Further, the experiments in Paper 1 revealed no evidence for valence asymmetries in perceived inconsistency, regardless of trait dimension. Paper 2 builds on Paper 1 by investigating whether valence asymmetries in perceptions of inconsistency depend on the amount of available target-specific information. The results of Paper 2 suggest that positive and negative information were perceived as equally inconsistent with impressions of the opposite valence regardless of the amount of prior target-specific information. Finally, Paper 3 investigated whether individual differences in how people respond to belief-incongruent information influence perceptions of inconsistency. The results of Paper 3 suggest that individual differences in preference for consistence, need for structure, and implicit theories of personality do not moderate the extent to which new information is perceived as inconsistent with a prior impression. Taken together, the papers comprising the current dissertation provide greater insights into the factors that influence perceptions of inconsistency which have significant implications for research on person perception and cognitive consistency more broadly. Additionally, the current dissertation provides a foundation for future research examining lay perceptions of inconsistency.



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