Cognitive social approach to dispositional inferences: What if the perceiver is a cognitive social theorist?

  • Shoda Y
  • Mischel W
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In most research on personality inferences, it is assumed that perceivers are guided implicitly by the intuitive, lay counterpart of a global trait theory of personality. This article explores, in contrast, the possibility that perceivers may also be guided by an intuitive version of the cognitive social conception of personality. In this view, personality dispositions are reconceptualized in terms of cognitive social person variables (such as the individuals' stable expectations, goals, and values) whose behavioral manifestation is in the patterns of situation-behavior relations. Inferences about person variables then require information about characteristic patterns of person-situation interactions. Such information is conveyed by the individuals's stable pattern of behavior variations over situations (person does A when X but B when Y)-data that typically are available to perceivers in everyday life but seldom in research on personality inferences. The authors examine when and how perceivers focus on these more contextualized, interactive, nontrait qualities of personality that go beyond the constraints of the classic trait conception and explore the implications for theory and research on dispositional inferences.

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  • Y Shoda

  • W Mischel

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