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

, : More Memory Bang for the Attentional Buck: Self-Protection Goals Enhance Encoding Efficiency for Potentially Threatening Males. Social Psychological and Personality Science 1(2): 182-189

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.


PMID: 21874152

DOI: 10.1177/1948550609359202

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