Is there a hierarchy of social inferences? The likelihood and speed of inferring intentionality, mind, and personality

Bertram F. Malle, Jess Holbrook
2012 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology  
People interpret behavior by making inferences about agents' intentionality, mind, and personality. Past research studied such inferences 1 at a time; in real life, people make these inferences simultaneously. The present studies therefore examined whether 4 major inferences (intentionality, desire, belief, and personality), elicited simultaneously in response to an observed behavior, might be ordered in a hierarchy of likelihood and speed. To achieve generalizability, the studies included a
more » ... e range of stimulus behaviors, presented them verbally and as dynamic videos, and assessed inferences both in a retrieval paradigm (measuring the likelihood and speed of accessing inferences immediately after they were made) and in an online processing paradigm (measuring the speed of forming inferences during behavior observation). Five studies provide evidence for a hierarchy of social inferences-from intentionality and desire to belief to personality-that is stable across verbal and visual presentations and that parallels the order found in developmental and primate research.
doi:10.1037/a0026790 pmid:22309029 fatcat:p24g7yfhyzcaznk4b5liu3ow3q