The Extraordinary Power of Expectancies to Bias Perception, Memory, and Information-Seeking

Lee Jussim

in Social Perception and Social Reality

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780195366600
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933044 | DOI:
The Extraordinary Power of Expectancies to Bias Perception, Memory, and Information-Seeking

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Expectations can be self-confirming, not only because they create self-fulfilling prophecies, but also because they may influence, bias, and distort how people interpret, evaluate, judge, remember, and explain others’ behaviors and characteristics. This chapter discusses some of the early research that most dramatically demonstrated this phenomenon. It reviews classic research demonstrating how race, gender, social class, occupational, and sexuality stereotypes bias person perception and how psychopathological labels (e.g., “schizophrenic”) so distort professionals’ judgments as to render the sane indistinguishable from the insane. It reviews two studies showing that beliefs about personality characteristics bias judgment and memory, and another showing that teachers’ expectations bias the grades they give to students. Last, this chapter reviews research demonstrating that expectations even bias how people gather information in expectancy-confirming ways. Taken together, this chapter, especially when combined with Chapter 4, conveys why the great enthusiasm social psychology once had for expectancy-confirming phenomena often led scholars to conclude that the biases and self-fulfilling prophecies created by interpersonal expectations constituted major ways in which people created and constructed social reality.

Keywords: bias; interpersonal expectancies; confirmatory biases; information seeking; memory

Chapter.  8577 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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