Motivated categories: Social structures shape the construction of social categories through attentional mechanisms


Social categorization is often framed as the antecedent to stereotyping, with perceivers rationally sorting the social world on the basis of perceptually salient categories before applying biased or motivated beliefs about those categories. Here, we instead suggest that the construction of social categories by individuals is itself subject to motivational influences, such that perceivers will attend to a given dimension of social categorization (e.g., race or gender) insofar as doing so fits within their motivations. Drawing from classic conceptualizations of social structure as the interplay of schemas and resources, we focus on how the motivations for shared schemas and for material benefits or resources may shape attention to social category dimensions. We outline the potential cognitive mechanisms through which these motivations may act on attention, before discussing implications of this model for individual differences, conceptualizations of social categorization as rational information reduction, and prejudice reduction.

Personality and Social Psychology Review
Suraiya Allidina
Suraiya Allidina
Post-doctoral Scholar