On the relation between associative strength and automatic behavior

A. Dijksterhuis, H.A.G. Aarts, J.A. Bargh, A.F.M. Knippenberg, van

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In two experiments the relation between past contact, stereotypic associative strength, and stereotype activation effects on memory performance was investigated. It was hypothesized that, for some stereotypes, contact can lead to the development of stronger stereotypical associations. Associative strength, in turn, was expected to determine stereotype activation effects on behavior (in this case, memory performance). In Experiment 1, it was shown that people who reported to have had much previous contact with elderly people performed worse on a memory (free recall) test after being primed with the stereotype of the elderly. People who reported to have had little previous contact did not show any effects of priming. In Experiment 2, we confirmed that this effect is mediated by associative strength. People who reported to have had a lot of contact with the elderly had developed an association between the category elderly and the attribute "forgetfulness." The strength of this association, in turn, predicted the degree of memory impairment after activation of the category elderly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-544
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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