Individual Differences In Miserly Thinking Predict Endorsement Of Racial/Ethnic Stereotypes

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Social Cognition


The “cognitive miser” metaphor is a classic characterization of mental life wherein cognitive efficiency is favored over careful and reflective thinking. A presumed implication is that reliance on intuitive processing in the absence of reflective thinking should encourage stereotyping. However, research to date has not adequately tested whether proclivities to engage reflective thinking correspond with less stereotype endorsement, nor if their influence occurs independent of cognitive ability and epistemic motivation. In two studies, we conducted straightforward tests of this hypothesis by measuring individual differences in miserly or reflective thinking, cognitive ability, and epistemic motivation as unique predictors of stereotype endorsement. We utilized objective, performance-based measures of reflective thinking via the Cognitive Reflection Test. The results provide the first direct evidence for the cognitive miser hypothesis. Individual differences in miserly thinking predicted endorsements of racial/ethnic stereotypes independent of cognitive ability and epistemic motivation.


stereotyping, cognitive reflection, dual-process theories

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