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Análise Psicológica

Print version ISSN 0870-8231On-line version ISSN 1646-6020


ORGHIAN, Diana; RAMOS, Tânia; REIS, Joana  and  GARCIA-MARQUES, Leonel. Acknowledging the role of word-based activation in spontaneous trait inferences. Aná. Psicológica [online]. 2018, vol.36, n.1, pp.115-131. ISSN 0870-8231.

The first goal of the present paper is to call attention to a confounder in studies that explore Spontaneous Trait Inferences (STI). These studies use, most of the times, behavioral descriptions which strongly imply personality traits about the actor of the behavior. However, a potential limitation of this material is the possibility of the trait being activated by specific words in the sentence (word-based priming) and not, or not only, by an inference made based on the comprehension of the behavioral sentence as a whole (text-based priming). This aspect has been recurrently ignored in previous studies. In the present paper, we discuss how the word-based priming may have obscured the interpretation of previous results in the STI literature. A second goal of this paper is to present a potential solution for this problem. We created a set of 122 trait-implying sentences and their correspondent control versions. These control sentences have approximately the same words as the trait-implying sentences, but the words are rearranged in such a way that the sentences no longer imply the target traits. By keeping the words constant, we control for the activation from individual words in the sentences (word-based priming). Thus, differences in trait activation between the two sentences can only be attributed to text-based priming. Researchers interested in investigating STI in the Portuguese language can use these materials in their studies. With this paper, we hope to stimulate a discussion about the mechanisms responsible for the trait activation in STI studies.

Keywords : Inference; Spontaneous trait inference; Word-based activation; Rearranged sentences.

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