The way people perceive others is fundamentally shaped by motives designed to help people navigate the challenges of everyday social life. Those motives can lead goal-relevant social stimuli to capture attention at early stages of information processing. The authors present data suggesting a link between perceptions of danger and selective attention to outgroup males. Participants underwent a minimal group manipulation and then performed a dot probe task assessing attentional biases. People who perceived the outgroup as dangerous had their attention captured selectively by images of outgroup males. Danger perceptions were unassociated with attention to outgroup females and ingroup targets. These findings fit with recent evolutionary analyses suggesting that self-protective motives promote cognitive vigilance to outgroup men and that human perceptual systems have been shaped by a long ancestral history of intergroup conflict. More broadly, this research extends a growing literature suggesting that attention is guided by top-down psychological factors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology