How innuendo shapes impressions of task and intimacy groups

Alex J. Benson, Esti Azizi, M. Blair Evans, Mark Eys, Steven R. Bray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Moving in and out of voluntary groups is an important feature of our social lives. We integrated theory on the functional benefits of group membership with a process termed the innuendo effect (Kervyn et al., 2012) to test how the absence of warmth or competence information shapes desire for group membership. Across three studies (Study 1a, N = 185; Study 1b, N = 359; Study 2, N = 429), we used an experimental vignette methodology in which people were randomly assigned to read descriptions that either emphasized an affiliation (i.e., intimacy group) or achievement (i.e., task group) context, and then subsequently emphasized a group's warmth, competence, or generally positive characteristics (i.e., control condition). For evaluations of both intimacy and task groups relative to a control condition, groups were perceived to lack warmth when described as highly competent, and groups were perceived to lack competence when described as highly warm. Though the direct effect of using innuendo on desire to join produced mixed results across studies, the mediation analyses in Studies 1b and 2 show that providing positive information about a group's warmth or competence, but omitting the contextually salient dimension of social perception (i.e., omission of warmth for intimacy groups and competence for task groups), indirectly weakened people's desire to join the group. Overall, this suggests that the innuendo effect generalizes to judgments of voluntary small groups, highlighting that failing to provide information about one of the dimensions of social perception (i.e., warmth or competence) can promote less favorable evaluations on that omitted dimension – even when descriptions contain wholly positive information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103854
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Nov 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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