Automatic contrast: Evidence that automatic comparison with the social self affects evaluative responses

K.I. Ruys*, R. Spears, E.H. Gordijn, N.K. de Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The aim of the present research was to investigate whether unconsciously presented affective information may cause opposite evaluative responses depending on what social category the information originates from. We argue that automatic comparison processes between the self and the unconscious affective information produce this evaluative contrast effect. Consistent with research on automatic behaviour, we propose that when an intergroup context is activated, an automatic comparison to the social self may determine the automatic evaluative responses, at least for highly visible categories (e.g. sex, ethnicity). Contrary to previous research on evaluative priming, we predict automatic contrastive responses to affective information originating from an outgroup category such that the evaluative response to neutral targets is opposite to the valence of the suboptimal primes. Two studies using different intergroup contexts provide support for our hypotheses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-374
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue numberPt 3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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