The present study examined the immediate and delayed effects of unobtrusive exposure to personality trait terms (e.g., “reckless”, “persistent”) on subjects’ subsequent judgments and recollection of information about another person. Before reading a deion of a stimulus person, subjects were unobtrusively exposed to either positive or negative trait terms that either could or could not be used to characterize this person. When the trait terms were applicable to the deion of the stimulus person, subjects’ characterizations and evaluations of the person reflected the denotative and evaluative aspects of the trait categories activated by the prior exposure to these terms. However, the absence of any effects for nonapplicable trait terms suggested that exposure to trait terms with positive or negative associations was not in itself sufficient to determine attributions and evaluations. Prior verbal exposure had little effect on reproduction of the deions. Moreover, no reliable difference in either evaluation or reproduction was found between subjects who overtly characterized the stimulus person and those who did not. Exposure to applicable trait terms had a greater delayed than immediate effect on subjects’ evaluations of the stimulus person, suggesting that subjects may have discounted their categorizations of the stimulus person when making their immediate evaluations. The implications of individual and situational variation in the accessibility of different categories for judgments of self and others are considered.
Higgins, E. T., Rholes, W. S., & Jones, C. R. (1977). Category accessibility and impression formation. Journal of experimental social psychology, 13(2), 141-154.