Expectancy disconfirmation and dispositional inference: Latent strength of target-based and category-based expectancies

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Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin




To explore differences between target-based expectancies, those based on previous behavior, and category-based expectancies, those based on membership in a social category, two studies tested the hypothesis that target and category-based expectancies of equal predictive strength affect dispositional inference differently when disconfirming information is available. Subjects used either category or target-based information to form expectancies of a nonaggressive child and then listened to a tape of the child behaving aggressively. In Experiment 1, target-based expectancies influenced impressions more than category-based expectancies, and in both studies target-based subjects were less confident of their impressions than category-based subjects. Experiment 2 also found that perceivers with target-based expectancies were more like to attribute unexpected behavior to an unusual mood state than perceivers with category-based expectancies. Results suggest differences in the underlying structures of the two types of expectancies.