What is the structure of perceiver effects? On the importance of global positivity and trait-specificity across personality domains and judgment contexts


When judging others’ personalities, perceivers differ in their general judgment tendencies. These perceiver effects partly reflect a response bias but are also stable and psychologically important individual differences. However, current insights into the basic structure of perceiver effects are ambiguous with previous research pointing to either a unidimensional structure (i.e., people see others as globally positive vs. negative) or a multidimensional structure (i.e., people see others as high or low on specific traits). Here we provide a large scale investigation of the structure of perceiver effects that spans more than 100,000 personality judgments across 10 studies in which a total of N = 2,199 perceivers judged others on several trait domains (i.e., the Big Five, agency & communion) and in different judgment contexts (i.e., level of involvement with targets, level of exposure to targets). Results suggest that perceiver effects are hierarchically structured such that they reflect both a global tendency to view others positively versus negativity and specific tendencies to view others as high or low with respect to trait content. The relative importance of these components varied considerably across trait domains and judgment contexts: Perceiver effects were more specific for traits higher in observability and lower in evaluativeness and in context with less personal involvement and higher exposure to targets. Overall, results provide strong evidence for the hierarchical structure of perceiver effects and suggest that their meaning systematically varies depending on trait domain and possibly the judgment context. Implications for theory and assessment are discussed.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 120(3), 745–764