People make social inferences without intentions, awareness, or effort, i.e., spontaneously. We review recent findings on spontaneous social inferences (especially traits, goals, and causes) and closely related phenomena. We then describe current thinking on some of the most relevant processes, implicit knowledge, and theories. These include automatic and controlled processes and their interplay; embodied cognition, including mimicry; and associative versus rule-based processes. Implicit knowledge includes adult folk theories, conditions of personhood, self-knowledge to simulate others, and cultural and social class differences. Implicit theories concern Bayesian networks, recent attribution research, and questions about the utility of the disposition-situation dichotomy. Developmental research provides new insights. Spontaneous social inferences include a growing array of phenomena, but they have been insufficiently linked to other phenomena and theories. We hope the links suggested in this review begin to remedy this.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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