More Memory Bang for the Attentional Buck: Self-Protection Goals Enhance Encoding Efficiency for Potentially Threatening Males

D. Vaughn Becker, Uriah S. Anderson, Steven L. Neuberg, Jon K. Maner, Jenessa R. Shapiro, Joshua M. Ackerman, Mark Schaller, Douglas T. Kenrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

When encountering individuals with a potential inclination to harm them, people face a dilemma: Staring at them provides useful information about their intentions but may also be perceived by them as intrusive and challenging-thereby increasing the likelihood of the very threat the people fear. One solution to this dilemma would be an enhanced ability to efficiently encode such individuals-to be able to remember them without spending any additional direct attention on them. In two experiments, the authors primed self-protective concerns in perceivers and assessed visual attention and recognition memory for a variety of faces. Consistent with hypotheses, self-protective participants (relative to control participants) exhibited enhanced encoding efficiency (i.e., greater memory not predicated on any enhancement of visual attention) for Black and Arab male faces- groups stereotyped as being potentially dangerous-but not for female or White male faces. Results suggest that encoding efficiency depends on the functional relevance of the social information people encounter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-189
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

Keywords

  • encoding
  • evolutionary psychology
  • memory
  • threat
  • visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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