Social Projection as a Universal Strategy in Mental State Inference: Cultural Differences in Utilization of Stereotyping


It has been argued that people selectively use two strategies, projection and stereotyping, for inferring mental states of the others. Through a series of experiments, Ames (2004) confirmed the hypothesis that, when a target person is perceived to be similar to oneself, people project one’s own mental states to the other; when a target is perceived to be dissimilar, stereotype of a group/category the target person belongs to is used for mental state inferences. In this study, we replicated Ames(2004)’s experiment in Japan and found that Japanese participants employed the projection unanimously regardless of the perceived similarity to the target person. We interpret this result with Yuki(2003) which argued East Asians perceive a social group as a network of independent people while Americans perceive a group as an entity. Our results thus suggest that stereotyping is a cultural-specific strategy while projection is a universal strategy employed in mental state inference.

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