Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2015 Aug 19:1-44. [Epub ahead of print]

Influence of Warmth and Competence on the promotion of safe in-group selection: SCM and social categorization of faces

Categorizing an individual as a friend or foe plays a pivotal role in navigating the social world. According to the Stereotype Content Model, social perception relies on two fundamental dimensions, Warmth and Competence, which allow us to process the intentions of others and their ability to enact those intentions, respectively. Social cognition research indicates that, in categorization tasks, people tend to classify other individuals as more likely to belong to the out-group than the in-group (In-group Overexclusion Effect, IOE) when lacking diagnostic information, probably with the aim of protecting in-group integrity. Here, we explored the role of Warmth and Competence in group-membership decisions by testing 62 participants in a social-categorization task consisting of 150 neutral faces. We assessed whether (i) Warmth and Competence ratings could predict the in-group/out-group categorization, and (ii) the reliance on these two dimensions differed in low-IOE vs. high-IOE participants. Data showed that high ratings of Warmth and Competence were necessary to categorize a face as in-group. Moreover, while low-IOE participants relied on Warmth, high-IOE participants relied on Competence. This finding suggests that the proneness to include/exclude unknown identities in/from one's own in-group is related to individual differences in the reliance on SCM social dimensions. Furthermore, the primacy of Warmth effect seems not to represent a universal phenomenon adopted in the context of social evaluation.

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