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Chapter 5: Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination
• How people think, feel, and behave towards members of social groups. We examine the nature of the
problem, two sets of causes underlying these problems, the effects of being the targets of these biases,
and how to reduce these biases today and in the future.
• Although Barack Obama’s presidential win demonstrated the evolution of race relations over the last
century, there was also increased activity in hate groups, increased militia activity, and sales of guns and
ammunition. Not only racial prejudice, but religious prejudice based on false rumours that he was
THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM: PERSISTENCE & CHANGE
• Although most agree that there has been great progress against prejudices, and that in general these
biases are seen as less acceptable than ever before, there are still exceptions – increase in prejudice
against immigrants and foreigners. Subtle forms of bias may live under the surface, but still have a
Defining Our Terms
• Racism: Prejudice and discrimination based on a person’s racial background, or institutional and cultural
practices that promote the domination of one racial group over another. E.g. Groups can be
disadvantaged by institutions that only hire people who fit the status quo, unwittingly perpetuating racism.
• Sexism: Prejudice and discrimination based on a person’s gender, or institutional and cultural practices
that promote the domination of one gender over another (typically men over women).
• Stereotypes: Belief or association that links a whole group of people with certain traits or characteristics.
• Prejudice: Negative feelings about others because of their connection to a social group.
• Discrimination: Negative behaviours directed against persons because of their membership of a
• Stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination operate based on social categorization: sorting people into
groups based on perceived attributes.
• Group: Two or more people perceived as related due to:
o 1) Direct interactions over a period of time
o 2) Joint membership in a social category: race, sex, etc.
o 3) Common fate, identity, or set of goals
• Ingroups: Groups with which an individual feels a sense of membership, belonging, and identity. Can
include country, religion, political party, hometown sports team = “them”
• Outgroups: Groups with which an individual does not feel a sense of membership = “us”
Racism: Current Forms & Challenges
• Legislation, opinion polls, sociological data and social psychological research indicate a decline in racial
prejudice and discrimination: decrease in perceiving African Americans as superstitious, ignorant, and
• Election of Obama increased perception of racial progress in the U.S. significantly, but also decreased
perception of need for support for equality policies, and view on need for future progress.
• 2006 World Cup: Racist taunts and aggression from fans highly prevalent, e.g. Oguchi Onyewu. World
Cup agency announced it would suspend national associations that did not impose new rules to reduce
this racist behaviour. Page 2 of 17
• This is old-fashioned racism: It is blatant, explicit, and unmistakable.
• Major League Baseball: Umpires more likely to call strikes for pitchers of the same race/ethnicity as
themselves. However, this bias is only evident under conditions when there would be the least
accountability or public outcry – no computerized monitoring, low game attendance, call not being the
final ball or strike of the player.
• This is modern racism: Prejudice that surfaces in subtle ways when it is safe, socially acceptable, or
easy to rationalize as non-racial.
• Aversive Racism: people sincerely have fair-minded attitudes and beliefs, but still harbour largely
unconscious and recognized negative feelings of anxiety and discomfort about other racial groups. These
contradictions and tensions lead to subtle, unconscious forms of prejudice and discrimination.
• This is most obvious when the situation is ambiguous:
o Hodson (2005): White subjects read about either a white or black defendant in a robbery case.
o When the evidence against the defendant is strong and unambiguous, subjects equally likely to
judge both defendants guilty.
o When situation more ambiguous due to some incriminating information being ruled inadmissible,
subjects more likely to judge the black defendant guilty. In this case, either a guilty or not-guilty
verdict could be justified – evidence should be ignored, but is also incriminating – so ambiguity
allows racial bias to emerge.
• When one suspects that racism could bias their judgements, they feel embarrassed, guilty, or ashamed.
This could lead them to show an opposite bias on consciously controlled tasks, responding more
favourably to the outgroup.
• Implicit Racism: Racism that operates unconsciously and unintentionally. Undetected by individuals
who want to be fair and unbiased, implicit racism can skew judgements, feelings, and behaviours without
inducing the guilt that more explicit forms of racism would trigger.
o Eberhardt (2006): Criminal defendant more likely to be sentenced to death if a defendant’s physical
appearance was more stereotypically black. Judges and jurors likely unconscious of this bias.
• Implicit Association Test (IAT) by Greenwald (1998): Measures the extent to which two concepts are
associated. Implicit racism towards blacks can be measured by how quickly participants associate the
picture of a black man with negative and positive concepts, compared to the same kinds of associations
for a white man. IATs can also focus on associations based on age, gender, etc.
o Implicit racial bias has been revealed in subjects as young as 6 years old. Older children and adults
begin to control or change their explicit prejudices while still showing the same consistent implicit
• Individuals’ degree of implicit racism sometimes predicts differences in their perceptions of and reactions
to others as a function of race, especially for subtle and nonverbal behaviours – how far one chooses to
sit from someone else, how much eye contact is made.
• IAT measures of implicit prejudice better predicts biased reactions and behaviours than explicit
measures, especially in socially sensitive domains of intergroup perceptions and interactions.
• Strong negative feelings about racial division, relative lack of contact between different racial groups, and
greater anxiety about appearing racist all make interracial interactions fraught with tension.
• Hugenberg and Bodenhausen (2003, 2004); White students quicker to perceive hostility in black faces
than white faces, especially if they were high in levels of implicit racism.
o Where shown movies of facial expressions changing from hostility to neutral, or neutral to hostility:
black faces stay hostile longer and become hostile quicker, relative to white faces. Page 3 of17
o Subjects also more likely to categorize a racially ambiguous face if it expressed hostility, than
• Research using fMRI show that perceiving a member of a racial outgroup triggers more emotional
reactions than perceiving an ingroup member. Specifically, there are different responses in amygdala
activation, with this greater activation being associated with higher levels of implicit prejudice.
o The amygdala activity may depend on the direction of the eye gaze of the faces depicted: greater
activity if the faces display direct gaze as if looking at the subject, diminished if eyes were closed or
looking away. The direct eye contact may convey threat.
• Mendes (2002): White subjects exhibit elevated cardiovascular reactions associated with feelings of
threat if the confederate with whom they are interacting is black rather than white.
• Individuals engaging in intergroup interactions activate metastereotypes, thoughts about the outgroup’s
stereotypes about them (such as being racist), and worry about being seen as consistent with the
o Subjects thus regulate their behaviours, such as becoming particularly vigilant for signs of distrust
or dislike from the other individual. This can make an interaction awkward, in turn possibly leading
their partner to ironically perceive them as appearing racist – when they were trying hard not to be.
o These interactions can be emotionally and cognitively exhausting particularly for subjects high in
implicit racism, leading them to perform worse on a simple cognitive task after the interaction.
• People may try to avoid interracial interactions for fear of appearing racist (e.g. if they were feeling
anxious for another reason that particular day) or being treated in a racist way; this can ironically make
o Norton (2006): White subjects paired with either a black or white confederate in a game where the
subject must ask the confederate questions so they could guess which of a group of photos the
o Subjects less likely to ask about race of the person in the photo when cooperating with the black
confederate – they would rather lose the game than appear racist by paying any attention to the
race of the people in the photos.
o Apfelbaum (2008): In a race-neutral version of the game, older children 10-11 years performed
better than younger children 8-9 years. However, when race was relevant, older children avoided
asking about race now that they are aware of its sensitivities, and performed worse than the
Sexism: Ambivalence & Double Standards
• Gender stereotypes are prescriptive rather than descriptive: they more often indicate what people in a
given culture believe men and women should be rather than simply are. E.g. Women should be nurturing
and men should be unemotional.
• Ingroup and outgroup members of each gender are intimately familiar with each other: come from the
same families, grow up together, are attracted to one another, live together, etc. Therefore, sexism
involves more ambivalence between positive and negative feelings and beliefs typical of racism.
• Ambivalent Sexism: Form of sexism characterized by attitudes towards women that reflect beliefs and
feelings of both hostile sexism (negative and resentful) and benevolent sexism (affectionate and
chivalrous, but potentially patronizing).
• The two forms of sexism are positively correlated.
o Both the greatest hostile sexism and the greatest benevolent sexism come from countries with the
most economic and political inequality between the sexes, e.g. Chile, Korea, Turkey, etc. Page 4 of17
• Benevolent sexism while not as troubling on the surface, fuels negative reactions to women who defy
traditional gender roles and stereotypes. This includes accepting myths about rape, like evaluating raped
women more negatively if they believe the woman was acting “unlady-like”.
Sex Discrimination: Double Standards & Pervasive Stereotypes
• Goldberg (1968): Even female students rated an article higher if they thought it was written by a man
than by a woman. Other studies about the devaluation of performance biased by gender – such as by
attributing achievements to luck rather than ability.
• Striking sex differences in occupational choice due to sexist attitudes and discrimination during childhood
leading to diverging career paths in adulthood. Even when equally-qualified men and women compete for
a job, considerations may be based on the perceived masculinity or femininity of the job.
• Even when men and women have comparable jobs, women tend to be paid less than their male
counterparts; they are often confronted with a “glass ceiling” which makes it difficult for women to rise to
the highest positions of power in a business or organization.
• Women are frequently confronted with a hostile and unfair work environment – sexual jokes and
harassment, derogatory comments, company-sponsored male-only outings, etc.
• Women vying for jobs and career advancement face a dilemma: they are seen as more competent if they
present with more stereotypically masculine traits, but they are therefore also seen as less socially skilled
o Both agentic (technical competence, independence, leadership ability) and communal
(interpersonal and social skills) qualities matter, but differently for males and females.
o Phelan (2008): Subjects rate agentic female candidates for a managerial position as high in
competence but low in social skills.
o When judging how hireable candidates are, subjects tend to weight competence as more important
– except when judging agentic women, where their lack of social skills was weighed more heavily
and their competence was deemphasized.
CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM: INTERGROUP & MOTIVATIONAL
• Certain factors make most of us more vulnerable to intergroup biases – intergroup and motivational
factors, and cultural and cognitive factors. Both groups of factors work together to account for the
complexities and pervasiveness of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.
Fundamental Motives Between Groups
• Evolutionarily, we have a tendency to affiliate with relatively small groups of similar others and live, play,
work, and fight together. With the basic instinct of self-protection, we divide the world into “us” ingroups
and “them” outgroups, thus creating negative stereotypes of outgroups to justify their exclusion.
• When people’s motive for self-protection is aroused, they are more likely to judge outgroup members
o After watching frightening scenes from a movie in which a serial killer stalks a woman, subjects are
more likely to misperceive the emotion of an outgroup member as anger.
o Being in a dark environment triggers self-protection more than a bright environment, and Canadian
subjects show greater outgroup bias against Iraqis – rate them higher on high-threat traits (hostile,
untrustworthy), but no such increase on ratings of low-threat traits (ignorant, close-minded).
• Optimal Distinctiveness Theory: People try to balance the desire to belong and affiliate with others,
and the desire to be distinct and differentiated from others. People thus identify with relatively small
ingroups, and distance themselves from outgroups or groups with ambiguous status. Page 5 of17
• According to the Terror Management Theory, people counter thoughts of death and mortality with the
self-protective act of constructing worldviews that help preserve self-esteem.
o Favouring ingroups over outgroups is an important way to preserve one’s cultural worldviews, and
try to obtain a kind of immortality through the continuation of similar others.
o Triggering thoughts about death also triggers ingroup biases by negative stereotypes and
Robbers Cave: Field Study in Intergroup Conflict
• 2006-2007 season of Survivor separated competitors into four rival tribes based on race. This recalls the
social psychology study at Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma in 1954 by Muzafer Sherif, which
demonstrated how quickly and intensely prejudice can be created between competing groups in the
o Two groups of 11-year old boys, all strangers to one another, were brought in separately to a 200-
acre camp in a densely wooded area.
o They spend the first week hiking, swimming, boating, and camping out. They also gave themselves
a group name and printed it on their hats and t-shirts. This gave them the chance to form their own
o They each discover they are not alone, and that there was to be a tournament between the
“Rattlers” and the “Eagles” – football, treasure hunt, tug of war, etc. For each event, the winning
team was awarded points, and the tournament winner was promised a trophy and other prizes.
o Almost overnight, the groups turned into hostile antagonists, with their rivalry escalating into a war:
group flags burned, cabins ransacked, riotous food fight.
• The effort to restore peace required the introduction of superordinate goals, a shared goal that can only
be achieved through cooperation between the groups.
o Camp truck breaks down and both groups must together pull it up a steep hill.
• As this study shows, competition is the explanation behind many conflicts. Similarly, activating
subordinate goals can provide intergroup benefits:
o 1999 earthquakes which helped improve Greek-Turkish relations as both unite against a shared
Realistic Conflict Theory
• Realistic Conflict Theory: Theory that hostility between groups is caused by direct competition for
valuable but limited resources.
o One group may fare better in the struggle for land, jobs, or power; the losing group becomes
frustrated and resentful and thus the winning group feels threatened and protective.
• A group may feel resentful not because their security or resources are truly threatened, but due to their
sense of relative deprivation, discontent aroused by the belief that they are faring poorly compared to
others. To the Smiths, what matters is not the size of their house per se, but whether it is larger than the
Social Identity Theory
• It is not just simple competition for valuable resources that trigger ingroup protectiveness – there are also
more subtle and psychological interests at stake.
• Ingroup favouritism is the tendency to discriminate in favour of ingroups over outgroups. This occurs
even when people are categorized into minimal groups on the basis of trivial, minimally important
o Henri Tajfel (1971): Subjects are shown number of dotted slides rapidly, and told to estimate
number of dots. They are told some people are chronic overestimators, others underestimators. Page 6 of17
o On a separate task, they are separated into overestimators and underestimators (in fact divided
randomly) and told to allocate points to other participants that could be cashed in for money.
o Subjects consistently allocated more points to members of their own group.
o Here, there is no history of antagonism, no competition for a limited resource, and no source of
• Social Identity Theory: Theory that people favour ingroups over outgroups in order to enhance their
own self-esteem. Our self-esteem has two components:
o 1) Personal identity
o 2) Various collective social identities based on the groups to which we belong.
o Therefore, people can boost their self-esteem through either personal achievements or through
affiliation with successful groups.
o We can derive pride from our connections to others without any direct benefits, but we also feel the
need to belittle outgroups to feel secure about ourselves: religious fervour, racial and ethnic
conceit, aggressive nationalism, even gossiping about a third party.
Favouritism towards ingroup, derogation of outgroups
• 1) Threats to one’s self-esteem can heighten the need for ingroup favouritism.
• 2) Expressions of ingroup favouritism can enhance one’s self-esteem.
• A blow to one’s self-esteem evokes prejudice, and the expression of prejudice helps restore self-image:
o Using subjects from a campus with a popular negative stereotype of the “Jewish American
Princess”, subjects are first given feedback about their performance on a test to bolster or threaten
o Subjects then evaluate a job applicant based on her photo, resume, and video of a job interview.
Clues suggest the woman is Jewish or not Jewish.
o For subjects whose self-esteem were lowered by negative feedback, the woman was rated more
negatively if she was Jewish than if she was not, although both had equal credentials. Page 7 of 17
o Subjects with negative feedback who were given the opportunity to belittle the Jewish woman
exhibited a post-experiment increase in self-esteem.
Situational and Individual Differences
• Social identity theory can be extended by making specific distinctions among
o Types of esteem-relevant threats: threat to group’s status, or to individual’s role within the group
o Types of groups: high or low status group in culture
o Types of ingroup members: strongly or weakly identified with their group.
• Greater ingroup identification is associated with stronger social identity effects.
o East German students who identified more with East Germany are more likely to show ingroup bias
when making comparisons with West Germany, especially during unification process where there
are heightened feelings of relative deprivation.
Culture and Social Identity
• Collectivists are more likely than individualists to value their connectedness and interdependence with
the people around them, and to base their personal identity to social identities.
• However, collectivists are less likely to show biases favouring their ingroup in order to boost self-esteem;
they are not as compelled to enhance their ingroup (exaggerate strengths) as a way of enhancing their
o When subject’s self-esteem is threatened individuals with more independent self-construals show
more ingroup favouritism than individuals with interdependent self-construals.
• On the other hand, being oriented strongly toward one’s ingroup may even been seen as highly desired
and valued among collectivists. Furthermore, collectivists may draw sharper distinctions between ingroup
and outgroup members than individualists.
Motives Concerning Intergroup Dominance & Status
• Some individuals are especially motivated to justify and preserve inequities between groups, perhaps
because they benefit from advantages that other groups do not.
• Social Dominance Orientation: A desire to see one’s ingroup as dominant over other groups, and a
willingness to adopt cultural values that facilitate oppression over other groups. This orientation promotes
o People with a social dominance orientation have particularly strong ingroup identification and
outgroup derogation (“Some groups of people are simply inferior to other groups”, “If certain groups
stayed in their place, we would have fewer problems.”)
• System Justification: Processes that endorse and legitimize existing social arrangements, these beliefs
protect the status quo.
o Although some disadvantaged groups might be able to improve their circumstances if they
challenged the economic or political system, members with this orientation actually oppose their
o They think the system is fair and just, and may even admire or show outgroup favouritism to
outgroups which thrive in the system.
CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM: COGNITIVE & CULTURAL FACTORS
• Stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination can result from the basic ways that people learn information
available in their culture, and how they cognitively process information about people.
Social Categorization Page 8 of 17
• Social Categorization: The classification of persons into groups on the basis of common attributes. This
may be natural and adaptive, allowing us to form impressions quickly and using past experience to guide
new interactions. This saves time and effort by using people’s group memberships to make inferences
• However, this categorization leads us to overestimate differences between groups and to underestimate
differences within groups – magnifying perceived differences between minorities and the majority.
• Categorizations we apply to others may say more about ourselves than about the others: those who think
of race as biologically determined are less likely to interact with racial outgroups.
• Some categorizations – race, gender, age – are more likely to dominate perceptions. This also depends
on cognitive factors such as implicit priming, and motivational factors such as our needs in a situation.
Ingroups vs. Outgroups
• We exaggerate the differences between ingroups and outgroups, minimizing perceived similarities and
maximizing perceived differences to help form and reinforce stereotypes.
• Outgroup Homogeneity Effect: The tendency to assume that there is greater similarity among
members of outgroups than among members of ingroups (“they” are all alike).
o To people outside the group, outgroup members can even seem to look alike – people are less
accurate in distinguishing and recognizing faces of members of racial outgroups.
• Reasons for perceiving outgroups as homogeneous:
o 1) We do not notice subtle differences among outgroup members because we have little personal
contact with them. The less familiar, the more likely to perceive all of them as homogeneous.
o 2) We do not encounter a representative sample of outgroup members.
E.g. Only see students from a rival school during football matches – only the most avid rival
o 3) Mere categorization as ingroup or outgroup influences how information is processed cognitively.
Hugenberg and Corneille (2009): Subjects exposed to unfamiliar faces of people identified as
ingroup members (from same university) or outgroup members. Students processed faces
more holistically if they had been categorized as ingroup.
Van Bavel (2008): Greater neural activity in areas such as the orbitofrontal cortex when
unfamiliar faces were labelled as being from an outgroup. The level of this activity is also
correlated with the degree to which participants reported preferring the ingroup faces over the
• Perceivers may process outgroup member’s faces so superficially as to process them more like objects
than fellow human beings.
o Harris and Fiske (2006): Activation in medial prefrontal cortex, necessary for social cognition, is
less active to images of nonhuman objects and to people from extreme outgroups (e.g. addicts,
• Example of bar owner who was selling T-shirts of Obama as Curious George: simplistic processing of
faces of outgroup members, dehumanization, and insensitivity to a persistent and degrading stereotype.
o Subjects had such well-learned associations between apes and black male faces, that even fast
exposure to images of either one made them quicker to identify the other – e.g. quicker to identify
which of a series of animals were apes, if first exposed briefly to black male faces (than if exposed
to white male faces).
How Stereotypes Survive and Self-Perpetuate
Illusory Correlations Page 9 of17
• Illusory Correlations: An overestimate of the association between variables that are only slightly, or not
at all, correlated. They result from 2 different processes:
o 1) People tend to overestimate the association between variables that are distinctive – those that
capture attention because they are novel or deviant.
o When two relatively unusual events happen together, this combination sticks in memories and lead
to an overestimation of association between the two. Thus, people might associate the distinctive
traits of minority groups and deviant acts.
o 2) People tend to overestimate the association between variables which they always expect to go
o They overestimate the joint occurrence of stereotyped groups and stereotypic behaviours – if
subjects believe women are worse drivers than men, even if they witness 10 men from 100 and 10
women from 100 get into car accidents, they will remember more of the women than the men.
• People maintain stereotypes based on how they explain the behaviours of others, and these attributions
can be flawed, thus leading to help perpetuate stereotypes.
o Confirming the stereotype of underperformance, instead of recognizing consequence of
discrimination that it can impair the performance of stereotyped individuals.
• When people see others behaving in ways which contradict a stereotype, they are more likely to think
about situational factors to explain this apparent exception to the rule.
• Contrast Effects: Positive or unexpected behaviour is seen as exceptional.
• People can hold negative views about a social group, even if they like individual members of that group –
a device of admitting exceptions by excluding a few favoured cases from the negative rubric.
o E.g. A woman who is seen as not very warm and nurturing can cause the perceiver to develop a
more diversified image o