The influence of suppression goals and accessible expectancies on rebound of social inferences
Mather, Robert Dayton
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Two studies tested whether suppression and concentration goals for an initial sentence completion task about social events would result in a rebound effect on a subsequent social judgment task. For the initial task, participants received instructions to avoid completing the sentences with negative content (negative suppression), to focus on completing the sentences with positive content (positive concentration), or to simply complete the sentences with whatever completion comes to mind (no goal control). For the second task, participants watched a video of a child performing a spatial ability task. Instructions either emphasized careful thought and accuracy while judging the child’s ability (motivating), or simply asked participants to form an impression of the child’s ability (nonmotivating). Participants then evaluated the child’s ability and performance, and completed a measure of future-event expectancies. Study 2 was identical to Study 1 except that the directional goals were opposite in valence (positive suppression, negative concentration, and no goal control). In the motivating condition of Study 1, participants who pursued a negative suppression goal in the first task judged the child’s performance as more successful in the second task than did positive concentration participants, showing evidence of correction for the biasing influence of accessible thoughts. In the nonmotivating condition, participants with a positive concentration goal in the first task judged the child’s ability and success more positively in a second task than did those who received no goal. In the motivating condition of Study 2, participants who followed the positive suppression goal in the first task categorized the child’s performance in the second task as more successful than did no goal participants, showing a rebound effect. Finally, assimilation of social inferences to future-event expectancies occurred in all conditions of Study 1, and in the motivating conditions of Study 2. These findings have several implications for theories of correction for bias. Correction for the biasing influence of accessible thoughts following suppression or concentration may depend on a) the focus of the monitoring process, b) the familiarity of the biasing influence, and c) the perceived inappropriateness of applying the accessible thoughts to subsequent judgments. Clinical implications also are discussed.