Stereotypes as energy-saving devices: a peek inside the cognitive toolbox

C. Neil Macrae, Alan B. Milne, G. V. Bodenhausen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

700 Citations (Scopus)


By use of a dual-task paradigm, 3 studies investigated the contention that stereotypes function as resource-preserving devices in mental life. In Study 1, Ss formed impressions of targets while simultaneously monitoring a prose passage. The results demonstrated a significant enhancement in Ss' prose-monitoring performance when stereotype labels were present on the impression-formation task. To investigate the intentionality of this effect, in Study 2, the procedures used in Study 1 were repeated using a subliminal priming procedure to activate stereotypes. Subliminal activation of stereotypes produced the same resource-preserving effects as supraliminal activation did. This effect, moreover, was replicated in Study 3 when a probe reaction task was used to measure resource preservation. These findings, which generalized across a range of social stereotypes, are discussed in terms of their implications for contemporary models of stereotyping and social inference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-47
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1994


  • Information-processing strategies
  • impression-formation
  • social stereotypes
  • outcome dependency
  • decision-making
  • attention
  • memory
  • components
  • automaticity
  • perception


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