In the present research, we investigated whether, because of differences in cognitive style, liberals and conservatives would differ in the process of categorizing individuals into a perceptually ambiguous group. In 3 studies, we examined whether conservatives were more likely than liberals to rely on gender inversion cues (e.g., feminine = gay) when categorizing male faces as gay vs. straight, and the accuracy implications of differential cue usage. In Study 1, perceivers made dichotomous sexual orientation judgments (gay-straight). We found that perceivers who reported being more liberal were less likely than perceivers who reported being more conservative to use gender inversion cues in their deliberative judgments. In addition, liberals took longer to categorize targets, suggesting that they may have been thinking more about their judgments. Consistent with a stereotype correction model of social categorization, in Study 2 we demonstrated that differences between liberals and conservatives were eliminated by a cognitive load manipulation that disrupted perceivers’ abilities to engage in effortful processing. Under cognitive load, liberals failed to adjust their initial judgments and, like conservatives, consistently relied on gender inversion cues to make judgments. In Study 3, we provided more direct evidence that differences in cognitive style underlie ideological differences in judgments of sexual orientation. Specifically, liberals were less likely than conservatives to endorse stereotypes about gender inversion and sexual orientation, and this difference in stereotype endorsement was partially explained by liberals’ greater need for cognition. Implications for the accuracy of ambiguous category judgments made with the use of stereotypical cues in naturalistic settings are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
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