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Spontaneous Trait Inferences

Definition

The notion of spontaneous trait inferences (STIs) refers to a frequently demonstrated empirical finding. Observing behaviors or reading behavior descriptions gives rise to immediate trait inferences, beyond the actually given information. Thus, somebody who steps on a partner's feet on the dance floor elicits the inference clumsy. Witnessing a student succeeding on a difficult task gives rise to the spontaneous inference clever. Such inferences take place even though the trait is not strictly implicated. Stepping on someone's feet can happen to nonclumsy people, just as even a dull student can solve a task under auspicious conditions. Logically, singular behaviors do not imply general traits. STIs are called spontaneous because they can be assumed to occur in the absence of explicit task instructions and deliberate intentions ...

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