The search for differentiated meaning is a precursor to illusory correlation

S. Alexander Haslam, Craig McGarty, P. M. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


An experiment (N=60) was conducted to examine the hypothesis that the illusory correlation effect is underpinned by a process of seeking to identify meaningful differences between social categories. It was reasoned that the effect would be weaker in an experimental condition in which the identity of the majority and minority groups was based on a characteristic (right- and left-handedness, respectively) that was less relevant to evaluative differentiation than in a control condition. This argument was supported by the predicted differences (a) in levels of illusory correlation across control and experimental conditions and (b) self-reports indicating that control participants sought to develop more differentiated impressions of groups than did participants in the experimental condition. The results support claims that the stereotyping process underpinning illusory correlation is structured by social meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-619
Number of pages9
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996
Externally publishedYes


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