Cultural differences in impression formation are well known and multiply determined. Spontaneous impressions (which occur relatively freely from conscious strategies) are basic components of impressions, and spontaneous trait transference (STT) is perhaps the most elemental form. We used process dissociation procedures to estimate the contribution of automatic and controlled processes to STT among Japanese and American participants. STT occurred in both samples, but more frequently among Americans. Controlled processes were equally important in both samples, but automatic processes were weaker among Japanese. Thus, these cultural differences in the most elemental form of impression formation were largely attributable to automatic processes. The results are discussed in terms of both stage theories of trait inference and views of culture as consisting of automatic patterns of thought and action.
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