The group-motivated sampler.

Does ingroup favoritism reflect experience or some preset motivation? The latter possibility is well examined in social psychology, but models from cognitive psychology suggest that unrepresentative samples of experience can generate biases even in the absence of motivational concerns. It remains unclear, however, how motivation and initially sampled experiences interact when both influences are possible, and people encounter new groups. Extending classic arguments about motivated information gathering, we propose that people can be described as “group-motivated samplers”–marked by a tendency to primarily seek out information about one’s own group, and to attend more to information that portrays the ingroup in a positive light. Four experiments showed that information seeking almost always starts with the ingroup, and that people chose to gather more information from the ingroup compared to an outgroup. In subsequent group evaluations, people were excessively positive about ingroups giving a good initial impression. Participants were also fairly accurate, on average, about the direction and magnitude of group differences when the ingroup was de facto better, but downplayed those differences in the opposite situation. Further analyses indicated that first experiences led to biased evaluations because people failed to discount for nonrepresentative (positive) ingroup experiences, whereas interpretive biases seem responsible for evaluations based on belonging to a better/worse performing group. Taken together, while social psychologists know that people tend to portray ingroups in a flattering light, we show how people selectively incorporate early experiences to build those impressions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)