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We propose that biases in attitude and stereotype formation might arise as a result of learned differences in the extent to which social groups have previously been predictive of behavioral or physical properties. Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrate that differences in the experienced predictiveness of groups with respect to evaluatively neutral information influence the extent to which participants later form attitudes and stereotypes about those groups. In contrast, Experiment 3 shows no influence of predictiveness when using a procedure designed to emphasize the use of higher level reasoning processes, a finding consistent with the idea that the root of the predictiveness bias is not in reasoning. Experiments 4 and 5 demonstrate that the predictiveness bias in formation of group beliefs does not depend on participants making global evaluations of groups. These results are discussed in relation to the associative mechanisms proposed by Mackintosh (1975) to explain similar phenomena in animal conditioning and associative learning.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Psychol Gen

Publication Date





138 - 161


Adult, Analysis of Variance, Association Learning, Attention, Attitude, Concept Formation, Female, Humans, Male, Photic Stimulation, Prejudice, Social Identification, Social Perception, Stereotyping