Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Two studies of person perception were conducted. In Study 1, subjects produced written descriptions of two real acquaintances: one whom they recently met (unfamiliar target) and one whom they had known for some time (familiar target). These target acquaintances were further specified by orthogonal manipulations of interdependence (subordinate vs. equal status vs. superordinate) and spacing of interactions (massed vs. spaced, e.g., everyday vs. once a week). In Study 2, randomly paired strangers of the same gender met face-to-face in problem-solving work-sessions. Interdependence within dyads was manipulated by varying how each member's outcomes depended upon the other member (members were either equally or unequally dependent on each other). The spacing of interactions was manipulated by having subjects meet either once per week or approximately every two days. Also, different dyads met varying numbers of times (members met once, twice, or three times), which was the manipulation of "objective familiarity". After the final meeting, each member produced a detailed description of his or her partner.;Analysis of variance was used to assess the structural nature of person knowledge as a function of interdependence, spacing of interactions, and "familiarity". Five dependent measures were derived from the descriptions. These included the number of attributes used to describe the referent person (i.e., differentation), the degree of informational integration, the complexity, the abstractness, and the evaluative tone of the description.;Results revealed robust effects for "familiarity": knowledge for familiar acquaintances was more differentiated and abstract than for less familiar acquaintances. The effects of interdependence and spacing were mixed and generally weak. Specifically, interdependence affected differentiation in ways opposite to predictions, but did not affect the evaluative tone of descriptions (which had been expected). The spacing variable unexpectedly influenced only the evaluative measures.;Discussion of the results emphasized the importance of "objective familiarity" for person perception, especially under naturalistic conditions. The unexpected findings for interdependence were discussed in terms of stereotypical behavior patterns in "unequal" relationships. The spacing effects were discussed in terms of the consolidation and polarization of the perceiver's impression of the referent person. Finally, recommendations for future research were offered, and several limitations of the present research were discussed.



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