Stereotype Efficiency Reconsidered: Encoding Flexibility under Cognitive Load

Jeffrey W. Sherman*, Angela Y. Lee, Gayle R. Bessenoff, Leigh A. Frost

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

199 Scopus citations


According to the encoding flexibility model, stereotypes are efficient because they facilitate, in different ways, the encoding of both stereotype-consistent and stereotype-inconsistent information when capacity is low. Because stereotypical information is conceptually fluent, it may be easily understood, even when resources are scant. As a result, processing resources may shift from stereotypical toward counterstereotypical information, which is difficult to comprehend under such conditions. Thus, whereas inconsistent information receives greater attention (Experiments 1-3) and perceptual encoding (Experiment 4) when resources are depleted, the conceptual meaning of consistent information is extracted to a greater degree under such conditions (Experiment 5). Potential moderating roles of stereotype strength and perceiver motivations are discussed, as are the implications of these results for dual process models of stereotyping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)589-606
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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