Comparative Thinking Styles in Group and Person Perception: One Mechanism – Many Effects
Perceptions of individuals and groups are inextricably intertwined. An individual is perceived differently depending on the group he or she belongs to, and the perception of the group depends on the characteristics of single group members that are encountered or come to mind. However, this mutual influence is far from uniform. A review of the literature indicates that sometimes the individual is perceived as similar to a group, and sometimes as dissimilar. Likewise, the group can be either assimilated toward or contrasted away from the individual. In the present article, we propose that these diverse effects may be explained by a comparison process between the individual and the group. More specifically, we argue that the comparative thinking style during this comparison (i.e. whether one focuses on similarities or dissimilarities) shapes the direction of the influence.