SPONTANEOUS AND DELIBERATE EVALUATION
People often show divergent evaluative responses to the same object. We may feel a spontaneous positive reaction to a high-calorie dessert even though we consider it unhealthy and detrimental for our goal to lose weight; we may experience spontaneous apprehension and discomfort when encountering members of stigmatized groups even though we intellectually abhor prejudice and wish to express solidarity with minorities; we may experience a spontaneous negative response to a small spider even though we know that it is entirely harmless; and sometimes we may feel strong romantic attraction toward another person despite firmly believing that this person is not a good match. What all of these examples have in common is that they involve a conflict between a spontaneous evaluative response (sometimes called implicit evaluation) and a deliberate evaluative judgment (sometimes called explicit evaluation). In the Social Cognition Lab, we are interested in the psychological underpinnings of spontaneous and deliberate evaluations, in particular the role of what we refer to as associative and propositional processes. In our research, we investigate how these processes interact with each other, how they jointly influence social judgments and social behavior, and what factors lead to changes in the two kinds of processes and their resulting evaluative responses.
ASSOCIATIVE-PROPOSITIONAL EVALUATION MODEL
A substantial amount of this research is based on the associative-propositional evaluation (APE) model, which distinguishes between the activation of associations in memory and the validation of the propositional information implied by activated associations (Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2006, 2007, 2011). The original purpose of the model was to provide an integration of apparently inconsistent findings in the literature on implicit and explicit attitude change. In several of our ongoing studies, we use the core assumptions of the APE model to gain deeper insights into the mechanisms underlying different kinds of evaluative responses and related social psychological phenomena. Examples include the role of associative and propositional processes in attitude formation and change (e.g., Gawronski & LeBel, 2008), cognitive dissonance (e.g., Gawronski & Strack, 2004), cognitive balance (e.g., Langer, Walther, Gawronski, & Blank, 2009), prejudice and stereotyping (e.g., Gawronski, Peters, Brochu, & Strack, 2008), self-representation (e.g., Peters & Gawronski, 2011), and moral judgment (e.g., Conway & Gawronski, 2013). More recently, several projects have started to investigate the role of associative and propositional processes in various applied contexts, including political decision-making (e.g., Galdi, Arcuri, & Gawronski, 2008) and affective disorders (e.g., Ouimet, Gawronski, & Dozois, 2009).
GENERALIZATION VERSUS CONTEXTUALIZATION
Challenging a widespread assumption in the literature on spontaneous evaluation, a considerable body of research has shown that spontaneous evaluations can be highly context-dependent, such that the same object may elicit different evaluative responses depending on the context in which it is encountered. However, the conditions under which spontaneous evaluations are context-dependent or context-independent are still not well understood. To address this limitation, we have started to investigate the learning processes that lead to context-dependent versus context-independent evaluative responses (Rydell & Gawronski, 2009). Expanding on this work, we proposed a representational account of generalization versus contextualization effects in evaluative learning that specifies the conditions under which spontaneous evaluations reflect either (a) initially acquired information; (b) subsequently acquired, counterattitudinal information; or (c) a mixture of both (Gawronski, Rydell, Vervliet, & De Houwer, 2010). In our ongoing research, we are testing a variety of novel predictions derived from this account to provide deeper insights into the mechanisms that underlie context effects on spontaneous and deliberate evaluations (for a review, see Gawronski & Cesario, 2013).
Because any scientific theory will be weak if the data it is based on are weak, our research program also includes a strong focus on psychological measurement. One product of this research is the quad-model (Conrey, Sherman, Gawronski, Hugenberg, & Groom, 2005), a mathematical model that disentangles the contribution of four qualitatively distinct processes to performance on measures of spontaneous evaluation (e.g., implicit association test, evaluative priming). Expanding on this research, a number of studies have investigated the role of response interference processes in measures of spontaneous evaluation. A recent product of this research is an integrative measurement model that describes the interplay of associative and attentional processes in response interference tasks (Gawronski, Deutsch, LeBel, & Peters, 2008). Several studies inspired by this model have shown that the same experimental manipulation can lead to different effects on otherwise equivalent measures that have been claimed to assess the same construct (e.g., Deutsch & Gawronski, 2009; Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2005; Gawronski, Cunningham, LeBel, & Deutsch, 2010). These findings point to the fundamental role of method-related factors in shaping the responses assessed by different kinds of measurement procedures, which has important implications for the interpretation of empirical findings obtained with these measures.