Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

James Uleman

James Uleman

  • SPN Mentor

What affects unintended social inferences, and what are their consequences? My students and I study unintended inferences (Uleman & Bargh, 1989) in person perception. Like the effects of concept priming on person perception these unintended (or "spontaneous") inferences are usually unconscious. For example, when people read that "The secretary solved the mystery half-way through the book," most of them unconsciously infer that she is clever. We've demonstrated these spontaneous inferences with a variety of methods, including cued recall, lexical decision reaction times (RTs), and recognition RTs (see Uleman, Newman, & Moskowitz, 1996). Now that we've shown that spontaneous inferences occur, the fun has just begun because we have methods to study lots of fascinating questions, such as:

(1) What are the consequences of spontaneous inferences? In particular, how do they interact with intentional inference processes? How controllable are they, once people become aware of them? These questions are especially relevant to stereotyping and stereotypes.

(2) What are the implicit theories that govern these inferences, and perhaps underlie social categories like traits? Current research on categorization, as well as implicit theories in person perception (e.g., "entitativity," "essentialism," and "entity vs. incremental theories") are relevant.

(3) How do differences in relationships and cultures affect spontaneous inferences? We have shown that people from "individualistic" cultures are more likely to infer traits spontaneously than those from "collectivistic" cultures. What is the reason for this difference? What other difference might occur as a result of broad social contexts?

(4) How can individualism and collectivism be better measured at the individual level? We are collaborating with a half-dozen colleagues in Europe and Asia to develop measures of individualism and collectivism, focusing particularly on relationships between the individual and ingroups.

Primary Interests:

  • Causal Attribution
  • Culture and Ethnicity
  • Intergroup Relations
  • Interpersonal Processes
  • Person Perception
  • Social Cognition


Journal Articles:

  • Hassin, R. R., Bargh, J. A., & Uleman, J. S. (2002). Spontaneous causal inferences. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 515-522.
  • Kressel, L., & Uleman, J. S. (2010). Personality traits function as causal concepts. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 213-216.
  • Rhee, E., Uleman, J. S., & Lee, H. K. (1996). Variations in collectivism and individualism by ingroup and culture: Confirmatory factor analyses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1037-1054.
  • Rhee, E., Uleman, J. S., Lee, H. K., & Roman, R. J. (1995). Spontaneous self-concepts and ethnic identities in individualistic and collectivistic cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 142-152.
  • Rim, S., Uleman, J. S., & Trope, Y. (2009). Spontaneous trait inference and construal level theory: Psychological distance increases nonconscious trait thinking. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1088-1097.
  • Schiller, D., Freeman, J. B., Mitchell, J. P., Uleman, J. S., & Phelps, E. A. (2009). A neural mechanism for first impressions. Nature Neuroscience, 12, 508-514.
  • Todorov, A., & Uleman, J. S. (2004). The person reference process in spontaneous trait inferences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 87, 482-493.
  • Todorov, A., & Uleman, J. S. (2003). The efficiency of binding spontaneous trait inferences to actors’ faces. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 549-562.
  • Todorov, A., & Uleman, J. S. (2002). Spontaneous trait inferences are bound to actors: Evidence from false recognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1051-1065.
  • Uleman, J. S., Hon, A., Roman, R., & Moskowitz, G. B. (1996). On-line evidence for spontaneous trait inferences at encoding. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 377-394.
  • Uleman, J. S., Rhee, E., Bardoliwalla, N., Semin, G., & Toyama, M. (2000). The relational self: Closeness to ingroups depends on who they are, culture, and the type of closeness. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 3, 1-17. [Received the Misumi Award from the Japanese Group Dynamics Association and the Asian Association of Social Psychology]
  • Uleman, J. S., Saribay, S. A., & Gonzalez, C. (2008). Spontaneous inferences, implicit impressions, and implicit theories. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 329-360.
  • Zárate, M. A., Uleman, J. S., & Voils, C. I. (2001). Effects of culture and processing goals on the activation and binding of trait concepts. Social Cognition (special issue on culture and cognition), 19, 295-323.

Other Publications:

  • Uleman, J. S. (1999). Spontaneous versus intentional inferences in impression formation. In S. Chaiken & Y. Trope (Eds.). Dual-process theories in social psychology (pp. 141-160). New York: Guilford.
  • Uleman, J. S., Blader, S. L., & Todorov, A. (2005). Implicit impressions. In R. R. Hassin, J. S. Uleman, & J. A. Bargh (Eds.). The new unconscious (pp. 362-392). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Uleman, J. S., Newman, L. S., & Moskowitz, G. B. (1996). People as flexible interpreters: Evidence and issues from spontaneous trait inference. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 28, pp. 211-279). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Courses Taught:

  • Introduction to Social Psychology
  • Seminar on Person Perception

James Uleman
Department of Psychology
New York University
6 Washington Place
New York, New York 10003
United States

  • Phone: (212) 998-7821
  • Fax: (212) 995-4018

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