Impression formation and role fulfillment: A holistic reference approach Academic Article uri icon


  • Previous approaches to impression formation from verbal information are discussed. A "holistic reference" approach is presented which proposes that a person first calls to mind the reference of the verbal description as a whole, and then evaluates that reference. To predict how the reference of a trait-role description (e.g., "immoral priest") is evaluated, a "role fulfillment" model is presented which proposes that the evaluation of the role interacts with the degree to which the trait fulfills the expectations of the role. In order to compare this holistic role fulfillment model to elementistic models, which propose that the independent evaluations of the trait and role are combined, trait-role combinations were tested where the desirability valence (positive or negative) of the trait alone was opposite to its role fulfillment valence (e.g., "casual surgeon"). The results supported both the "holistic" and interactive features of the role fulfillment model. Evidence is also presented that suggests that the evaluation of the role may be an important independent factor in the overall evaluation. The implications of the holistic reference approach for the issue of "change-of-meaning" are considered. 1976.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

author list (cited authors)

  • Higgins, E. T., & Rholes, W. S.

citation count

  • 37

complete list of authors

  • Higgins, E Tory||Rholes, William S

publication date

  • January 1976