Motivational Influences on Impression Formation: Outcome Dependency, Accuracy-Driven Attention, and Individuating Processes

Steven L. Neuberg, Susan T. Fiske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

434 Scopus citations


How might being outcome dependent on another person influence the processes that one uses to form impressions of that person? We designed three experiments to investigate this question with respect to short-term, task-oriented outcome dependency. In all three experiments, subjects expected to interact with a young man formerly hospitalized as a schizophrenic, and they received information about the person's attributes in either written profiles or videotapes. In Experiment 1, short-term, task-oriented outcome dependency led subjects to use relatively individuating processes (i.e., to base their impressions of the patient on his particular attributes), even under conditions that typically lead subjects to use relatively category-based processes (i.e., to base their impressions on the patient's schizophrenic label). Moreover, in the conditions that elicited individuating processes, subjects spent more time attending to the patient's particular attribute information. Experiment 2 demonstrated that the attention effects in Experiment 1 were not merely a function of impression positivity and that outcome dependency did not influence the impression formation process when attribute information in addition to category-level information was unavailable. Finally, Experiment 3 manipulated not outcome dependency but the attentional goal of forming an accurate impression. We found that accuracy-driven attention to attribute information also led to individuating processes. The results of the three experiments indicate that there are important influences of outcome dependency on impression formation. These results are consistent with a model in which the tendency for short-term, task-oriented outcome dependency to facilitate individuating impression formation processes is mediated by an increase in accuracy-driven attention to attribute information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-444
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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