Snyder, M., Tanke, E.D., & Berscheid, E., Social Perception and Interpersonal
Behavior: On the self-fulfilling Nature of Social Stereotypes, JESP, 1977,
This research is about self-fulfilling influences of social stereotype
in two person social interaction. It approaches attribution theory from
another unexplored angle -- what are our cognitive and behavioral consequences
of our impressions of other people?
The researchers believe that social stereotypes have a strong influence
on how we attribute behavior and respond to it. In fact, social stereotypes
may influence information processing to bolster and strengthen these stereotypes.
It has been long seen that people often notice and remember those attributes
that correspond to their existing stereotypes of people. However, it may
also be true that people use these stereotypes to predict future behavior
of people, and that the stereotypes may influence their own interactions
with the person. This influence may induce actions by the other person
that affirm the existing stereotype -- a self-fulfilling loop.
Thus "interaction guided by perceptions" causes a behavioral confirmation
of the perceiver's intial impressions.
The researchers choose phycial attractiveness as a variable for study, because
prior research has shown that physical attractiveness stereotypes strongly
influenc 'liking" perceptions and social interactions. They hypothesized
that male student who were led to believe a female target was either physically
attractive or unattractive would interact differently based on their internal
stereotype and also generate stereotype-affirming behavior by the female
target. Furthermore, this difference would be discernable by other observers
naive to the stereotype influences and physical attractiveness levels of
subject or target.
The recruited both male and female subjects, ostensibly for a phone conversation
exercise. The males received biographical info and a puported photo of
the female (either an attractive or unattractive photo) while the females
Before the conversation, the males rated their initial impression of the
female in a questionnaire. Then they had a 10 minute unstructured conversation
with the female (recorded). Both males and female then completed impression
questionnaires, and females answered additional questions about her enjoyment
of the conversation, talking comfortableness, and other questions.
Then other psychology students listened to only the female portion of the
recordings and rated their voices on scales like "How animated and
enthusiastic is this person?", "How much is she enjoying herself?".
Another group assessed the male voices in a similar manner.
It was clear from the pre-conversation assessments that men who anticipated
physically attractive partners expected to interact with comparatively sociable,
poised, humorous and socially adept women. In contrast, the other men expected
unsocialble, awkward, serious, and socially inept women.
It was also clear that the unbiased observers rated the women in the "attractive"
condition different from the "unattactive" condition. "What
had initially been reality in the minds of the men had become reality in
the behavior of the women with whom they had interacted.
Also men who interacted with women who they thought were attractive were
more sociable, interesting, outgoing and humorous than the men in the unattactive
The results show that stereotypes can affect future interaction and produce
behavior in others that reaffirms one's impressions of them. Other stereotypes
such as sex and race should have similar effects. Thus "events in
the social world may be as much the effects of our perceptions of those
events as they are the causes of those perceptions".s