Social inferences from group size


Does the mere size of a social group influence how it is perceived? Study 1 showed that on self-report measures, smaller and larger groups are rated to be equal in warmth/goodness, but smaller groups are rated to be higher in status/competence. Self-reports indicated that the latter result stems from the small group size of the socioeconomic elite (i.e., the top 1%). Using an implicit measure (the IAT), Studies 2 and 3 demonstrated that smaller and larger groups are equally associated with warmth/goodness, showing consistency with self-reports. Surprisingly, larger groups are implicitly associated with high status/competence, not smaller groups. Two possible explanations for this explicit-implicit dissociation were ruled out. Compared to smaller groups, larger groups were not implicitly associated with greater amounts of any attribute, nor were larger groups implicitly associated with all positive attributes. Study 4 found that even when two groups are explicitly known to be the same in status/competence, the larger group is nonetheless implicitly associated with greater status/competence. To explain this result, we offer the possibility that implicit associations between larger groups and high status/competence are systematic, erroneous extensions of the association between larger groups and physical dominance. Together, these studies reveal a new dissociation between explicit and implicit cognition. Although explicit ratings show that smaller groups are elite, implicit associations erroneously indicate that larger groups are elite, thereby assigning larger groups expanded power in the minds of perceivers.

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 70, 204-211
Jack Cao
Quantitative Researcher