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Anxiety, Stereotyping, and Impression Formation: How Anxiety Influences Evaluations of Other People

Curtis, G.J. and Locke, V. (2010) Anxiety, Stereotyping, and Impression Formation: How Anxiety Influences Evaluations of Other People. VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, Saarbrucken Germany.


This book focuses on the impact of anxiety on impression formation. In examining what influence anxious affective states have on impression formation the importance of stereotypes and stereotyping is explored. This chapter begins by briefly outlining the rationale for examining the impact of anxiety on impression formation. The development of theories of impression formation that may be relevant to evaluating the impact of anxiety on the impression formation process are then discussed. Definitions, which will be used throughout the book, of impression formation, stereotypes and stereotyping, and anxiety are presented. Models of how anxiety affects impression formation are then discussed. From these models two main predictions will be drawn about the effect of anxiety on impression formation: that anxious persons will form either more stereotypical or more affect-congruent impressions of others. Relevant empirical evidence is then reviewed leading to the conclusion that because of the methodological limitations of the research to date the competing predictions derived from these models have not yet been appropriately examined, indicating the need for new methodologies to be developed. A series of five experiments is then presented using new methodologies. Selected results from experiments 1 and 2 can be found in the paper by Curtis and Locke (2005) and selected results from experiments 4 and 5 can be found in the paper by Curtis and Locke (2007).

There are a number of reasons why the effect of anxiety on social judgments generally, and impression formation in particular, should be of interest. To begin with, anxiety is an affective state that is experienced with reasonable regularity by most individuals (Eysenck, 1992) and, thus, is at least sometimes likely to co-occur with the impression formation processes. However, there are reasons for expecting more systematic relationships to exist.

Stephan and Stephan (1985) proposed that the mere presence of members of a different social group from one's own would cause anxiety and that such anxiety would influence social judgments and interactions between people. Stephan and Stephan proposed that this "inter-group anxiety" would have mainly negative consequences for the outcome of social judgments and interactions. For example, they proposed that intergroup anxiety would increase the use of negative stereotypes. Stephan and Stephan established the construct validity of inter-group anxiety through a series of questionnaires given to Anglo and Hispanic college students in the United States. They concluded that inter-group anxiety is inversely related to the frequency of inter-group contact; the less contact you usually have with other groups the more you are worried by the prospect or occurrence of such contact. They further concluded that inter-group anxiety increases when there are negative stereotypes about the comparison group and the more dissimilar one's own group is from the comparison group. At the very least, this shows that anxiety can have an impact on interpersonal and inter-group relations.

Item Type: Book
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology
Publisher: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller
Copyright: The author and VDM Verlag Dr. Müller
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