Salience, Set Size, and Illusory Correlation: Making Moderate Assumptions About Extreme Targets

David M. Sanbonmatsu, Sharon Shavitt, Bryan D. Gibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Salient persons and objects are often evaluated more extremely than other targets. Our study integrated research on illusory correlation, set size, and salience and explored when and why these salience effects occur. The results indicate that the tendency to evaluate salient targets more extremely is attenuated when the number of targets present in the judgmental context is low or when considerable time is available to process the relevant evidence. These illusory correlations are also less likely to form when the descriptions of the targets are moderate as opposed to extreme. The findings reveal that people tend to learn much about salient targets, but they are often left to making assumptions about nonsalient targets. An illusory correlation often forms because the salient target is recognized to have extreme qualities, whereas nonsalient targets are erroneously assumed to have more moderate qualities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1020-1033
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume66
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1994

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