Chapter 9: Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination
Prejudice: a negative attitude based toward members of a group based simply on someone belonging to
Discrimination: negative, harmful behaviour toward people based on their group membership
Genocide: an attempt to systematically eliminate an ethnic group through banishment or murder
Prejudice and Discrimination Today
Blatant, overt discrimination is less common today than 20-30 years ago, although it certainly still exists.
Discrimination has been made illegal, and equal access has become mandatory policy for employers in
the public and private sectors.
Social norms now censure prejudice, and people are less likely to express negative feelings publicly.
Some people fool themselves into thinking they are unprejudiced when, in fact, they remain (implicitly)
biased against members of disadvantaged groups.
Gaertner and Dovidio:
“Old-fashioned,” blatant racial discrimination has been replaced by more subtle and ambiguous
Many majority group members (e.g. White Canadians) have ambivalent, or conflicted, feelings toward
minorities (e.g. Aboriginal and Asian Canadians).
Aversive racism: a “modern” kind of prejudice held by people who do not consider themselves prejudiced
and who would find any accusation of being prejudiced aversive, but who nevertheless harbour some
negative beliefs and hostile feelings toward members of minority groups
Many majority group members would exhibit discrimination toward minorities when the circumstances
made negative treatment justifiable, thereby providing an excuse (perhaps even to themselves) for
The researchers reported data from two different samples of White Americans – one was obtained in 1989
and the other in 1999. They predicted that the more recent sample would report less blatant prejudice
toward Blacks than the earlier sample, but there would be little change over the ten-year period in
discriminatory behaviour when the circumstances provided an excuse.
In their study, when the black and white candidates‟ qualifications were strong, both were equally as
likely to be recommended the job. When the qualifications of both were ambiguous, the white applicants
were recommended over the black applicants.
Stereotypes: Cognitive Sources of Prejudice and Discrimination One major contribution of soc. psych. to understanding prejudice has been to identify common cog.
processes that can establish/maintain prejudice.
The key element in the cog. view of prejudice is stereotypes – individuals‟ beliefs that members of a
group share particular attributes.
Stereotypes qualify as one kind of schema – namely, schemas that represent human groups.
Schemas allow us to sort objects into categories, to make assumptions about those objects, and thereby to
impose meaning and predictability on our environment (“going beyond the information given”).
Stereotypes “efficiently” provide us with info about target persons that can guide behaviour; they allow us
to make rapid inferences about target persons.
Two Costs of Stereotypes: Oversimplification and Negativity
We may assume too much uniformity/similarity within groups, nationalities, genders, and occupations
(outgroup homogeneity effect).
Fact is that, in contrast to categories of inanimate objects/plants, categories of humans tend not to be
Stereotypes of large groups are oversimplified and, when applied to a particular individual, often
Stereotypes are often unfavourable in tone – i.e. they contain negative traits.
1) Stereotypes may refer to groups that are believed to be competing with the perceiver‟s group for
desired resources (realistic conflict theory from the lecture).
2) Being in a bad mood leads perceivers to interpret their stereotypes of some minorities more
3) People may be unfamiliar with members of the targeted group and feel anxious/uncomfortable
when interacting with them; they may label their anxiety as dislike for the group.
Stereotypes Distort Information Processing
Humans are not open and unbiased processors of info related to stereotypes.
Stereotypes (like other schemas) guide attention and interpretation in such a way as to increase the
probability that perceivers‟ expectancies will be confirmed.
Stereotypes Guide Attention
o Stereotypes can distort info processing…
By affecting what perceivers notice about members of the stereotyped group
Generally perceivers are sensitive to and looking for information that
confirms the stereotype.
By biasing attention In Bodenhausen‟s study, the stereotype of Hispanic men increased
participants‟ attention to the evidence supporting a guilty verdict.
Stereotypes Guide Interpretation
o Stereotypes can distort info processing…
By affecting how perceivers interpret the behaviour of people in the group
Actions that are ambiguous will tend to be interpreted as consistent with
The Potential Vicious Cycle of Stereotypes
o A process in which a perceiver‟s expectancy about a target person influences the
perceiver‟s behaviour toward the target person in such a way as to elicit the expected
actions from the target person
o The perceiver has acted in such a way as to make his/her own prophecy come true.
o Stereotypes can produce expectancies about a target individual, which can then alter the
perceiver‟s actions in ways that elicit the expected behaviour from the target.
o Given that stereotypes of minority groups can be unfavourable, self-fulfilling prophecies
may often be damaging and harmful.
o If targets are aware of someone‟s expectancy for them, they may work to disprove it,
especially when it is negative.
o But in many cases, targets are unaware that perceivers have strong expectancies for them,
which makes self-fulfilling prophecies more likely.
o People sometimes “choke” when trying to disprove a negative stereotype about their
group (stereotype threat).
Do Stereotypes Influence Our Perceptions If We Disagree with Them?
Subliminal priming procedure: a method of activating a schema/stereotype by flashing words or pictures
very briefly on a computer screen in front of a participant
It turns out that ptcs do perceive such stimuli subconsciously, and concepts related to the words/pictures
become activated in memory.
Implicit Intergroup Bias
o Distorted judgements about members of a group based on a stereotype, which can occur
without the person‟s awareness
o Similar to negative implicit attitudes toward a group
o Everyone may show some implicit intergroup bias, even those who disagree with a
o Some research suggests, however, that unprejudiced individuals actually seek out info to
disconfirm common stereotypes and, therefore, do not show an implicit intergroup bias.
o There is also evidence that people who exhibit weak or no implicit intergroup bias also
tend to behave in other positive ways toward the target group.
o Further, there is evidence that implicit intergroup bias can be reduced by deliberate
attempts to be open-minded. Meta-Stereotypes
Meta-stereotype: a person‟s beliefs about the stereotype that outgroup members hold concerning his or
her own group
Meta-stereotypes influence people‟s expectations about their interactions with members of the outgroup –
people who believe that their group is viewed negatively by an outgroup tend to anticipate unpleasant
interactions with members of that group.
Emotional Sources of Prejudice and Discrimination
Negative attitudes toward specific groups sometimes spring from other, noncognitive sources.
Emotional/motivational processes that can contribute to prejudice and discrimination:
1) Prejudice sometimes results from negative emotions such as frustration, anger, and hostility.
2) Prejudice may also sometimes satisfy basic motives such as the need to evaluate the self
Frustration and Prejudice: Scapegoat Theory
Scapegoat theory: prejudice involves dominant group‟s “lashing out” at subordinate groups because of
frustration and disappointment; members of the disadvantaged group serve merely as scapegoats – they
had little/no direct role in causing the frustration, but provide a convenient target to blame
Perceived Competition and Prejudice: Realistic Group Conflict Theory
Realistic group conflict theory: when groups in society are believed to be competing with one another for
such things as jobs, housing, political power, and health care, hostility can be aroused and can, in turn,
lead to prejudice
Sometimes groups perceive not only competition for scarce resources from members of outgroup, but also
threats to important values. People may believe that members of another group (e.g. Pakistani immigrants
to Canada) bring with them a set of values and customs that threaten the status quo (symbolic, rather than
Self-Enhancement Motivation: Social Identity Theory
A third affect-related factor in prejudice involves potential positive emotional benefit of derogating
outgroups: feeling good about the self, or self-enhancement.
One way to judge the self positively is in relative terms: “I am better than you” and also “My group is
better than your group” – feeling superior to another person/group can be gratifying because it indirectly
confirms one‟s own worth.
Researchers have found that when people‟s ingroup performs better than an outgroup, they report higher
self-esteem and more positive judgements of their own abilities.
A Unifying Model: Integrated Threat Theory Integrated threat theory: negative attitudes toward an outgroup can result from four different kinds of
threats – realistic threats, symbolic threats, threats stemming from intergroup anxiety, and threats arising
from negative stereotypes
The term „threats‟ refers to the fact that prejudiced people expect members of the disliked outgroup to
behave in ways that are detrimental to ingroup members. These “detrimental” actions may include taking
jobs away from ingroup members, challenging the ingroup‟s fundamental values, or simply making
ingroup members feel uncomfortable during interactions.
1) Realistic threats: those emphasized by realistic group conflict theory – competition for scarce
2) Symbolic threats: perceived threats to the ingroup‟s important attitudes, beliefs, and values
3) Threats from intergroup anxiety: arise when people feel uncertain and anxious about interacting
with members of the outgroup
4) Threats from negative stereotypes: occur when people believe that members of the outgroup
possess undesirable characteristics that may lead to detrimental actions toward the ingroup
One compelling aspect of the theory is that it can be applied equally well to understanding either the
attitudes of the majority group toward minority groups or the attitudes of minority groups toward the
Emotional Source Relevant Theory Description Example
Frustration Scapegoat theory People vent their Gay bashing: Looking
frustrations from daily for gay men to beat up
life by lashing out simply because it gets
against members of rid of feelings of
weak minority groups frustration and stress
Perceived competition Realistic group conflict People dislike members Disliking immigrants
theory of a group who are because they are
thought to be competing believed to take jobs
for scarce resources away from native-born
such as jobs or land workers
Self-enhancement Social identity theory People form negative Laughing at the unusual
impressions of members customs or beliefs of a
of an outgroup in order minority religious group
to make their own group in order to make the
seem superior majority religious view
Threats Integrated threat theory People dislike members Avoiding contact with
of a group who are disabled people because
competing for scarce interactions are
resources, hold different awkward and anxiety-
attitudes and values, provoking
arouse anxiety, or are
believes to possess
characteristics Sexism: Prejudice and Discrimination Against Women
Sexism: prejudice and discrimination directed against women because of their gender
The problem is not so much that men dislike women, but rather that men do not always treat women as
Neosexism: a modern and more subtle form of sexism, which includes beliefs that women are no longer
disadvantaged, together with antagonism toward women‟s demands for special treatment
Men‟s scores on the neosexism scale correlated with their attitudes toward affirmative action programs
that give preferential treatment to women, such that neosexists were more opposed to such programs.
The researchers hypothesized that neosexist beliefs arise when men think that their own interests are best
served by a hierarchical system in which men have more power than women.
Ambivalent sexism inventory: a measure of stereotyped attitude toward women, which composed of two
dimensions – one positive and one negative – benevolent sexism and hostile sexism
Benevolent sexism: positive but paternalistic attitudes toward women
Hostile sexism: negative attitudes toward women who violate the traditional stereotype of women
The traditional view of men is that they are strong, aggressive, dominant, independent, and mathematical,
whereas the traditional view of women is that they are warm, compassionate, indecisive, emotional, and
Gender stereotypes mirror the division of roles between men and women in society and can make it
difficult for women to achieve positions of power and status.
Origins of Gender Stereotypes
o One important factor is parental socialization: boys and girls are often raised differently.
Parenting patterns teach boys to be self-confident and girls to be nurturant and
also lead children to expect similar characteristics in other boys and girls.
o Religious institutions also contribute to gender stereotypes.
There is some evidence than stronger religious beliefs are correlated with greater
endorsement of stereotypical gender roles.
o Mass media causes stereotypical portrayal or men and women in television shows and
o It is also likely that distorted interpretations and self-fulfilling prophecies serve to
strengthen gender stereotypes.
People may interpret a man‟s request for help as as