Preference-Categorization: How Group Membership and Liking Affect Evaluative Scale Preference
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Previous research examining the preference-categorization effect shows that people make finer categorical distinctions for liked (vs. disliked) objects. This includes people’s evaluative ratings using likert-type rating scales. While previous research has focused on consumer products, the current research examined whether findings from the preference-categorization effect apply to how individuals rate other people. Experiment 1 provided initial evidence that the preference-categorization effect applies to interpersonal ratings by showing that people prefer more evaluative scale points when rating liked (vs. disliked) others. Experiment 2a, 2b, and 2c replicated this effect using in-group and out-group members and pre-constructed rating scales to eliminate vocabulary knowledge as a possible confound. Additionally, these studies found mixed evidence that duration of in-group membership and in-group identity influence the preference-categorization effect. Experiment 2a found that the longer a person has been a member of the in-group, the stronger they display the preference-categorization effect. Experiment 2c showed that the stronger a person’s in-group identity, the more scale points they preferred when rating in-group members. However, these findings were not replicated in the other current studies. Furthermore, these studies found no relationship between scale selection and other group identity measures, affect, or need for cognition. Experiment 3 examined the relationship between the preference-categorization effect and out-group homogeneity effect. Although there was evidence of both of these effects, no relationship was found between the two measures. Together, these studies suggest a preference-categorization effect for ratings of group members in that people prefer more rating scale points when rating both liked (vs. disliked) and in-group (vs. out-group) members.
Becker, Brittney Nicole (2017). Preference-Categorization: How Group Membership and Liking Affect Evaluative Scale Preference. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from