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Individual Differences in Social Perception

Jackson, Douglas N.; Messick, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Individual Differences, Mathematical Models, Multidimensional Scaling, Social Cognition


This paper emphasizes the important role that the perceiver plays in determining the manner in which other people and social events are organized, and describes possible linkages between mathematical scaling models and concrete problems in the areas of person cognition and social perception. The multidimensional scaling model is proposed as one solution to the dual problems of rigorously representing ordered schemata and realistically allowing for multiple orderings both in the characteristics of the people being judged and in the points of views of the judges about these characteristics. It recognizes that judges rating stimuli may differ among themselves. A particular point of view is represented by a vector extending in some particular direction within the multidimensional space of stimulus objects. Stimulus projections on each vector represent scale values for each point of view. Two different approaches include averaging over all judges to obtain a multidimensional space of stimulus attributes, or seeking diversity among judgmental viewpoints while assuming one-dimensional perceptions from each judge. Tucker and Messick combined these two approaches, deriving a separate multidimensional space for each different viewpoint about stimulus similarity. Relationships among the viewpoints and with any measured characteristics of the judges are described in a multi-factor space of perceiver differences. This model is applied to two social perception problems: a study of the perception of prominent political figures, and an experimental study of the simulation of international relations. It is recommended that investigators of social perception generalize to consistent individual differences whenever they appear in the perception of social objects, rather than to a generalized average person who may not, in fact, represent anyone. (GDC) Prepared for a symposium on The Perceiver in Social Perception, American Psychological Association, New York, 1961.

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