On resisting the temptation for simplification: counterintentional effects of stereotype suppression on social memory

C. Neil Macrae, G. V. Bodenhausen, A. B. Milne, V. Wheeler

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In two studies, we investigated the process and consequences of stereotype suppression. In Study 1, participants formed impressions of a target, via an audio-taped self-description, while simultaneously responding to a randomly presented probe stimulus (i.e., probe reaction task). While performing the impression-formation task, some participants were instructed to inhibit their stereotypes about the target's social group; others were given no such instruction. The results demonstrated: (i) that stereotype suppression is an effortful, resource-demanding mental process; and (ii) that stereotype suppression ironically reduces attentional resources available for processing target-related information. Study 2 replicated the finding that stereotype suppressors had impaired memory for nonstereotypic individuating information and revealed another ironic consequence of mental control. Specifically, following a period of stereotype suppression, participants demonstrated enhanced recall for the formerly unwanted stereotypic material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1996


  • thought suppression
  • information
  • attention
  • components
  • consciousness
  • automaticity
  • heuristics
  • prejudice
  • demands
  • impact

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