STUDY ALERT: Abandoning a label doesn’t make it disappear: The perseverance of labeling effects

Abandoning a label doesn’t make it disappear: The perseverance of labeling effects 

Francesco Foroni & Myron Rothbart 

Labels exert strong influence on perception and judgment. The present experiment examines the possibility that such effects may persist even when labels are abandoned. Participants judged the similarity of pairs of silhouette drawings of female body types, ordered on a continuum from very thin to very heavy, under conditions where category labels were, and were not, superimposed on the ordered stimuli. Consistent with earlier research, labels had strong effects on perceived similarity, with silhouettes sharing the same label judged as more similar than those having different labels. Moreover, when the labels were removed and no longer present, the effect of the labels, although diminished, persisted. It did not make any difference whether the labels were simply abandoned or, in addition, had their validity challenged. The results are important for our understanding of categorization and labeling processes. The potential theoretical and practical implications of these results for social processes are discussed.

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