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Special Collection

The facets of social evaluation: The diversity of aspects underlying the Big Two of social perception

Collection launched: 03 Oct 2022

Guest editors:
Vincent Yzerbyt (University of Louvain, Belgium)
Andrea Abele-Brehm (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany)

Social evaluation is at the heart of people’s daily interactions. Several decades of research show that whether social perceivers appraise themselves, others, or groups, they rely on two basic, also called fundamental, or “Big Two” dimensions.

A great many models have relied on these dimensions over the years and recent efforts have built on adversarial collaboration to organize and indeed unify the many strands of research devoted to the Big Two. The consensus emerging from this endeavour is that social evaluation rests on the combined use of a Vertical dimension (also called Agency, Competence, or Social Utility) and a Horizontal dimension (also labelled Communion, Warmth, or Social Desirability). Whereas the Vertical dimension denotes aspects associated with differential levels of power, status, and resources as well as the motivation of “going ahead”, the Horizontal dimension refers to the collaborative or competitive nature of the relationship between the perceiver and the target and the motivation of “getting along”.

For a little more than a decade, a fascinating development in this domain concerns the recognition that each dimension of the Big Two may comprise several facets. Indeed, a growing number of efforts address these questions, looking at the convergences and divergences between the facets, their respective antecedents as well as their unique consequences. To the extent that successful goal-pursuit requires both skill (being competent, capable) and motivation/volition (being determined, confident), the Vertical dimension has been distinguished into the facets of Ability and Assertiveness, respectively. And because establishing and maintaining social relationships or “getting along” also requires skill and motivation, the Horizontal dimension comprises the facets of Friendliness (being warm, empathic) and of Morality (being fair, trustworthy).

The ambition of this special issue is to bring together current research on the facets of social evaluation. The present selection of seven papers testifies to the broad range of questions that the facet approach allows addressing. The papers differ with respect to methodology (from free response formats to experimental approaches) and with respect to focus (looking at one dimension and its facets, at both dimensions, at the four facets, and even at more than four facets).

With this set of contributions, our hope is to stimulate the dialogue and exchange among researchers interested in the important questions of the Big Two and their facets and pave the way for further theoretical and empirical progress on this front.