Valence Biases and Emergence in the Stereotype Content of Intersecting Social Categories

Gandalf Nicolas, Susan T. Fiske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


People belong to multiple social groups simultaneously. However, much remains to be learned about the rich semantic perceptions of multiply-categorized targets. Two pretests and three main studies (n= 1,116) compare perceptions of single social categories to perceptions of two intersecting social categories. Unlike previous research focusing on specific social categories (e.g., race and age), our studies involve intersections from a large sample of salient societal groups. Study 1 provides evidence for biased information integration (vs. averaging), such that ratings of intersecting categories were more similar to the constituent with more negative and more extreme (either very positive or very negative) stereotypes. Study 2 indicates that negativity and extremity also bias spontaneous perceptions of intersectional targets, including dimensions beyond Warmth and Competence. Study 3 shows that the prevalence of emergent properties (i.e., traits attributed to intersecting categories but not the constituents) is greater for novel targets and targets with incongruent constituent stereotypes (e.g., one constituent is stereotyped as high Status and the other as low Status). Finally, Study 3 suggests that emergent (vs. present in constituents) perceptions are more negative and tend to be more about Morality and idiosyncratic content and less about Competence or Sociability. Our findings advance understanding about perceptions of multiply-categorized targets, information integration, and the connection between theories of process (e.g., individuation) and content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2520-2543
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 27 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • General Psychology


  • emergence
  • intersectionality
  • multiple categorization
  • negativity bias
  • text analysis


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