Smith, E. R., & DeCoster, J. (1998). Knowledge acquisition, accessibility, and use in person perception and stereotyping: Simulation with a recurrent connectionist network. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 21-35.
Connectionist models contrast in many ways with the symbolic models that have been traditionally applied within social psychology. This paper applies an autoassociative connectionist model originally developed by McClelland and Rumelhart (1986) to reproduce several well-replicated and theoretically important phenomena related to person perception and stereotyping. These are: exemplar-based inference, group-based stereotyping, the simultaneous application of several stereotypes to generate emergent characteristics, and the effects of recency and frequency of prior exposures on accessibility (the probability of a representation's use). Though many of these phenomena are explained by current theories in social psychology, the simulation contributes to parsimony and theoretical integration by showing that a single, very simple mechanism can generate them all. The model also predicts a new phenomenon, rapid recovery of accessibility after it has declined to zero. Further exploration of potential applications of connectionist models and distributed representations in social psychology is encouraged.