Procedural Efficiency and On-Line Social Judgments
Do social judgments increase in efficiency with practice in the same way as nonsocial judgments or cognitive processes? Social judgments are more complex and may differ in other ways from nonsocial judgments (cf. Ostrom, 1984), making this question nontrivial. In this chapter, I focus on the decrease in time per judgment that occurs with practice. Several experiments have focused on these issues (Smith, 1988, Smith, Branscombe, & Bormann, 1988; Smith & Lerner, 1986), and one illustrates their general approach. In this study (Smith et al., 1988, Experiment 2), people made 200 yes/no judgments concerning whether or not a particular behavior implies a trait. (In other experiments, such as Smith & Lerner, 1986, I have used other types of social judgments, but behavior-to-trait inferences are theoretically central to person perception and much of my research has focused on their properties.) A sample judgment would be, "Is hitting friendly?" The behavior stimulus, presented as a single verb on a computer screen, was different on each of the 200 trials (except for systematic repetitions of behaviors, described later). The target trait in different conditions (between subjects) was friendly, intelligent, or dominant, chosen to represent major dimensions of social judgment. The dependent variable is the time taken to make each judgment, measured from the onset of the behavior on the screen until the press of a response key.