Warmth and competence predict overoptimistic beliefs for out-group but not in-group members

Dricu, Mihai; Bührer, Stephanie; Hesse, Fabienne; Eder, Cecily; Posada, Andres; Aue, Tatjana (2018). Warmth and competence predict overoptimistic beliefs for out-group but not in-group members. PLoS ONE, 13(11), e0207670. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0207670

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People can be overly optimistic not only about their own future but also for the people with whom they identify. Furthermore, interpersonal perception generally forms along two universal dimensions, i.e. warmth and competence. In this study, we created four fictional characters that would map onto each quadrant of the two-dimensional space of warmth and competence, i.e. one in-group member (high on both warmth and competence) and three out-group members (high warmth, low competence; high competence, low warmth; low on both warmth and competence). We then asked respondents to assess the likelihood of each character experiencing a series of identical desirable and undesirable events in order to uncover potential optimistic biases. Our study had two goals. First, we wanted to balance the target desirable and undesirable events on four key characteristics, i.e. event frequency, controllability, emotional intensity and personal experience with the event. Second, we wanted to investigate whether stereotypes of warmth and competence could influence the respondents’ likelihood estimates for each character. We show that respondents manifested a strong desirability bias, expecting more desirable than undesirable events for the in-group member and the reverse pattern for the extreme out-group member. More important, we show that, within desirable and undesirable events, respondents anchored their judgments for the in-group member on their personal experience with the target events, further revealing an egocentric bias, but turned to stereotypical knowledge in the form of warmth and competence to judge out-group members. Implications for both social perception and optimism research are discussed.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Dricu, Mihai, Aue, Tatjana


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Public Library of Science


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation




Tatjana Aue Seil

Date Deposited:

20 Aug 2019 15:52

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:28

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

social optimism bias, warmth, competence, stereotype content model, desirability





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