ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 51 ›› Issue (10): 1157-1170.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.01157

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Cognitive control strategies from the perspective of perceptual conflict: An example of stereotyped information and counterstereotyped information

CUI Yichen1,2,3,WANG Pei4(),CUI Yajuan5   

  1. 1 Institute of Mental Health, Nanjing Xiaozhuang University, Nanjing 210017, China
    2 Mental Health Education Guidance Center, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing 210037, China
    3 School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
    4 Faculty of Education, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
    5 Shenzhen V-Grow Power Logistics Co., Ltd., Shenzhen 518067, China
  • Received:2017-12-20 Published:2019-10-25 Online:2019-08-19
  • Contact: Pei WANG
  • Supported by:


The question of whether the activation of stereotype is automatic activation (automatic activation) or controlled (inhibition) has been controversial. With the in-depth study, “stereotype activation is a cognitive process which is influenced by many cognitive factors, and the conditional automation process” has attracted more and more attention. Among them, the most discussed factors are category information, prompt clue, directional attention and so on. In addition, it also involves interpersonal trust, perspective taking, cognitive psychology, imagination, perception of their age and other factors. In recent years, researchers have explained how social categories start stereotyped information from the perspective of perceived conflict. Stereotype information processing can help activate stereotype. So, does stereotype activation affect cognitive control strategies? When stereotype information is disturbed by other information and even affected by counter stereotyped information, does the stereotype associated with it automatically activate? When the two types of conflict information are subliminal priming, does cognitive control, which regulates the formation of impressions, have an effective inhibitory effect on stereotype activation? In response to these questions, the researchers began to focus on the influence of other people’s visual cues on impression formation to others. These studies controlling the stimulus presentation time and masking stimuli, so that part of the subliminal stimuli presented in the other part, stimuli presented in the above threshold. As a result, we can compare the similarities and differences between the effects of subliminal cues and subliminal cues on cognitive control. Studies have shown that when the participants are initiated by relevant cues, they acquire attributes about a social group in the long-term memory system. This information processing process is a rapid and implicit process of perceptual preparation, which consists of two stages: the social classification based on stereotyped information and the stereotype activation based on the extracted social categories. The two stages of information processing are divided into two parallel processing cognitive systems: the previous stage involves the intentional operating system, and the latter stage relates to the automatic monitoring system. Can the two cognitive systems be regarded as the carriers of active control and reactive control in the whole process of impression formation? At present, few studies have directly related to the relationship between stereotype processing and cognitive control strategies. In view of this, this study assumes that: (1) When there is a perceived conflict stereotype information and counterstereotype information, and the perceptual load is high, the impression formed by the effects of the reactive control to activate counterstereotype; and when the perceptual load is low, the impression formed by the proactive control of the role of prone to stereotype bias. (2) Cognitive control takes a “double-edged sword” model for conflict information of different intensity (stereotyped information vs. counterstereotyped information). That means that when he processing method is controlled by the proactive control of the intentional operating system (the conscious, conscious processing) is performed and when the two classes of information start simultaneously at the threshold, the processing mode is controlled by the reactive control of the automatic monitoring system (the processing of the unconscious and unconscious control).

In this study, we used stereotype information and counterstereotyped information as an example and the experimental tasks were divided into two levels: high or low perceptual load or threshold, and subliminal priming by using the word sense Stroop paradigm and masked version of goal priming paradigm. Experiment 1 explored the cognitive control strategy in the context of conflict between stereotype information and counterstereotyped information perception. Using 2 (perceived load: high vs. low) × 2 (gender specific words and gender attributes word perception: conflict vs. compatibility) mix design. Using word meaning Stroop paradigm of to divided manipulation of perceptual load into two categories: gender traits (target) displayed above the same gender attribute words (such as “grumpy-male”) in the low perceptual load task and gender words each side presents a gender attribute words and are compatible with the gender words or conflict (such as male-grumpy-female) in the high perceptual load task. Experiment 2 explored the conflict information intensity of stereotype information and counterstereotyped information impacted on the cognitive control strategy. A hybrid design using 2 (conflict information intensity: subliminal priming vs. subliminal priming) × 2 (two types of gender trait words perception: conflict vs. compatibility). Using masked version of the start-target paradigm and affective error attribution program to make a part of other people’s information is shown in subliminal manner, while another part of others’ information is presented in a threshold manner by controlling the presentation time of two kinds of information and masking stimuli. So that we can investigate how the cognitive control strategy of stereotype formation is affected by conflict intensity.

In Experiment 1, the dynamic changes of perceptual load determine the individual’s cognitive control strategy of stereotyped information and counterstereotyped information. The results showed the dynamic change of conflict information intensity and perceived load determines individual’s cognitive control strategy of stereotyped information and counterstereotyped information. Reactive control consumes less cognitive resources, to make processing of stereotype consistent information more quickly, to make processing of stereotype conflict information more slowly, and to activate counterstereotype easily. On the contrary, proactive control consumes such more cognitive resources as to slower processing of stereotype consistent information, to quicken processing of stereotype conflict information and to prone to stereotype bias easily. In Experiment 2, cognitive control takes a “double-edged sword” model of stereotyped information and counterstereotyped information. When stereotyped information and counterstereotyped information start simultaneously on threshold, the processing mode is controlled by the initiative of the intentional operating system which is the processing of involuntary, unconscious control. And when the two types of information start simultaneously at the threshold, the processing mode is controlled by the automatic monitoring system which is the processing of unconscious and unconscious control.

The activation and expression of stereotype are closely related to the monitoring and coordination of cognitive control. In particular, people need stronger cognitive control in their daily life to avoid biased judgments caused by stereotyped information. As the saying goes, “Standers-by see more than gamesters.” Actor/observer effects show that the processing of the impression of others is determined by their own cognitive control mechanism. This phenomenon can be explained by experiment 1 and Experiment 2 respectively. These results indicate that the individual, individuals can flexibly balance among the two cognitive control systems (intentional operating system vs. automatic monitoring system) and adjust their weights (either initiate active control or bias reactive control), thus forming the most favorable impression processing strategy for others. Even under the threshold of perception, individuals can process the impression of others through unconscious cognitive control.

According to Gestalt theory, group entity makes stereotyped group impression stereotype by influencing people’s conformity processing of group members’ information. Subsequently, stereotyped group impression has strong social significance because of social factors and group classification. So they can be maintained and strengthened continuously, and eventually become stereotyped. Then, whether group entity is a moderator variable contained in the cognitive control mechanism, and how is it related to cognitive control? In this regard, follow-up studies can further develop the study of the dynamic construction of impression formation cognitive control.

Key words: stereotype activation, conflict information intensity, cognitive control strategy, proactive control, reactive control

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