The saliency of category information in person perception for ingroup and outgroup members was investigated. European American participants were presented with a fictional character that varied in race (African American or European American) and occupational garb (military, judge, doctor, or athlete). Occupations were chosen to be either stereotypical or nonstereotypical for African Americans and European Americans with the aid of the Statistical Abstract of the United States (1992) percentages. Based on prior research findings (Park & Rothbart, 1982; Mackie & Worth, 1989), it was predicted European American participants would spontaneously describe an outgroup character by race (superordinate category information), but would mention occupation (subordinate category information) when spontaneously describing the ingroup character. As predicted, results indicated race was rarely mentioned when describing the ingroup character, but was usually the first label applied for the outgroup character. Moreover, when describing the ingroup character, as compared to the outgroup character, occupation was mentioned earlier. Thus, differential utilization of organizing information about a seemingly mundane stimulus may provide a clue as to the origins of intergroup categorizations and bias.

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