Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 238, Issue 1, pp 193–204 | Cite as

Modulation of preference for abstract stimuli following competence-based social status primes

  • Sarah BoukarrasEmail author
  • Vanessa Era
  • Salvatore Maria AgliotiEmail author
  • Matteo Candidi
Research Article


In the present study, we measured whether competence-related high and low social status attributed to two unknown individuals affects participants’ implicit reactivity to abstract stimuli associated to the identity of the same individuals. During a status-inducing procedure, participants were asked to play an interactive game with two (fake) players coded as high vs low status based on their game competence. Before and after the game, a modified version of the Affective Misattribution Procedure (AMP) was administered in which the players’ faces were used as primes. The evaluation target, as is typical to AMP, was a Chinese ideogram. There were two different presentation timings for the prime image: 75 ms and 17 ms. After the status-inducing procedure, the evaluation targets preceded by the high-status prime (i.e. best player’s face) were rated as more pleasant than those preceded by the low-status prime (i.e. worst player’s face). This effect was only found, however, for the 75 ms lasting prime. Moreover, explicit ratings of the primes showed that the high-status player was rated as more intelligent, competent and dominant than the low status one. These results indicate that implicit preference and explicit evaluation of unacquainted individuals are rapidly modulated by competence-based social status attribution, thus hinting at the plastic nature of social categorization and, relatedly, the malleability of visual preference.


Social status Implicit preference Affect misattribution procedure 



We would like to thank Francesco Zorzi and Daniele Esposito for acting as model confederates in the study and Jack Spittle ( for proofreading the manuscript.


This study was partially funded by an ERC advanced Grant (eHONESTY) and a PRIN grant from the Italian Ministry of University and Research (n. 20159CZFJK) awarded to SMA. It was also funded by the Italian Ministry of Health (Ricerca Finalizzata, Giovani Ricercatori 2016, n. GR-2016-02361008) awarded to MC.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

221_2019_5702_MOESM1_ESM.docx (131 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 131 kb)
221_2019_5702_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (108 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (JPEG 108 kb)
221_2019_5702_MOESM3_ESM.jpg (105 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (JPEG 105 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.IRCCS Fondazione Santa LuciaRomeItaly
  3. 3.Sapienza University of Rome and CNLS@Sapienza Istituto Italiano di TecnologiaGenoaItaly

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