Construing and constructing others

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When individuals (as perceivers) hold expectations about other people (as targets), they can elicit from these targets behaviors that are consistent with their expectations, even if these expectations are independent of the target’s real characteristics. In this paper, we consider the role that this phenomenon, known as behavioral confirmation, plays in shaping the social perceptions of perceivers, targets, and outside observers. As well, we address the value of laboratory research on behavioral confirmation for understanding the dynamics and outcomes of social interactions in naturally occurring settings. Building on these considerations, we then examine the role of behavioral confirmation phenomena in shaping intergroup relations, with particular reference to delineating conditions in which such phenomena serve to preserve these relations. Based on this analysis, we suggest that dyadic confirmation phenomena are likely to occur in naturally occurring settings and may contribute to the maintenance and perpetuation of social stereotypes and societal structures.


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