In interpersonal perception, “perceiver effects” are tendencies of perceivers to see other people in a particular way. Two studies of naturalistic interactions examined perceiver effects for personality traits: seeing a typical other as sympathetic or quarrelsome, responsible or careless, and so forth. Several basic questions were addressed. First, are perceiver effects organized as a global evaluative halo, or do perceptions of different traits vary in distinct ways? Second, does assumed similarity (as evidenced by self-perceiver correlations) reflect broad evaluative consistency or trait-specific content? Third, are perceiver effects a manifestation of stable beliefs about the generalized other, or do they form in specific contexts as group-specific stereotypes? Findings indicated that perceiver effects were better described by a differentiated, multidimensional structure with both trait-specific content and a higher order global evaluation factor. Assumed similarity was at least partially attributable to trait-specific content, not just to broad evaluative similarity between self and others. Perceiver effects were correlated with gender and attachment style, but in newly formed groups, they became more stable over time, suggesting that they grew dynamically as group stereotypes. Implications for the interpretation of perceiver effects and for research on personality assessment and psychopathology are discussed.
A couple of quick comments to add:
- This is an example of using the Big Five / Five-Factor Model not as a model of personality per se, but as a model of social perception. I very briefly mention this potential use of the Big Five in my guide to measuring the Big Five, and I’m currently working on a manuscript expanding on this idea. (BTW, I’m certainly not the first person to think of the Big Five in this way. I’m trying to carry this idea forward a bit, but it’s one of those cases where I oscillate between thinking what I’m saying about it is radically new and thinking ho-hum-we-already-thought-of-that.)
- While we were working on this manuscript, I became aware that a group led by Dustin Wood was looking at very similar issues (but with some interesting differences in approach and areas of non-overlap). They’ve got a paper in press at JPSP.
If you want to read more you can download the PDF:
Srivastava, S., Guglielmo, S., & Beer, J. S. (2010). Perceiving others’ personalities: Examining the dimensionality, assumed similarity to the self, and stability of perceiver effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 520-534.