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Chapter 1-5

PSYC12H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1-5: Group Dynamics, In-Group Favoritism, Cognitive Dissonance

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Michael Inzlicht

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Nelson- Notes
Chapter One: Introduction to The Study of Stereotyping and Prejudice
Groups are not unique to humans. Some researchers theorize that the tendency to
form groups is such a basic part of the nature of animals, including humans, and
has conveyed survival benefits so successfully that it had withstood time and
In addition to the tremendous benefits to individuals in groups, however, there are
some disadvantages and complications that group life brings, such as mate
competition and mate retention.
Group members tend to favour their own groups (ingroups) over other groups to
which they do not belong (outgroups). Even when group membership is based on
the most arbitrary criteria (e.g., randomly assigning people to group A or to group
B, an example of a minimal group), people tend to show preferences for members
of their own group over those of other groups.
Although such preferences may have adaptive utility from evolutionary and
practical perspectives, they form the basis for negative feelings about other groups
(prejudice) and for believing that certain characteristics are associated with other
groups (forming stereotypes), often because the outgroup members are perceived
to be antithetical to the ingroup’s welfare or value.
Defining Stereotyping
Lippmann’s “stereotype”
Stereotype was adopted by social scientists when journalist Walter Lippmann
used the word to describe the tendency of people to think of someone or
something in similar terms that is, as having similar attributes based on a
common feature shared by each.
In other words, stereotypes tell us what social information is important to perceive
and to disregard in our environment.
The Social-Cognitive Definition
In the early 1970s, with the birth of social cognition, researchers, came to regard
stereotyping as a rather automatic process of categorization that many cognitive
and social psychologists believe is inherent in the very nature of the way humans
think about the world.
Schema: A hierarchy organized, cognitive structure that represent knowledge
about a concept or type of stimulus, and its attributes and the relations between
those attributes.
Another popular definition of stereotypes, by Ashmore and Del Broca, defines
stereotypes as “a set of beliefs about the personal attributes of a group of people.”
This definition is more consistent with the essence of many past definitions of
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stereotype because it restricts the meaning of stereotype to a generalization about
a group of people.
Cultural and Individual Stereotypes
A useful but infrequently used distinction must be made when discussing the
definition of stereotype. Specifically, it is important to differentiate between
cultural and individual stereotypes. A cultural stereotype describes “shared or
community-wide patterns of beliefs”, whereas an individual stereotype describes
the beliefs held by an individual about the characteristics of a group.
Is a Stereotype an Attitude?
Some researchers believe that a stereotype is similar to an attitude. An attitude is a
general evaluation of some object.
Researchers have traditionally viewed attitudes as comprising three components:
a behavioural component, an affective component, and a cognitive component.
Thus, some theorists define stereotypes as intergroup attitudes, partitioned into
these three components. However, the majority of researchers in this area agree
that stereotypes represent only the cognitive portion of any intergroup attitude.
The other two components of an intergroup attitude, affect and behaviour,
correspond to prejudice and discrimination respectively. Discrimination is defined
as any negative behaviour directed toward an individual based on their
membership in a group.
Defining Prejudice
As Gardner suggest the word prejudice can be taken literally to indicate a
prejudgment about something. Prejudice can suggest an evaluation, either positive
or negative, toward a stimulus.
Finally, Gardner specified another definition of prejudice, in which the individual
has a negative evaluation of another stimulus.
Prejudice as Negative Affect
Prejudice is seen as a strong negative feeling about someone based on a
generalization one has about that person’s group. This view corresponds most
clearly with the traditional view of an intergroup attitude as composed of
cognitive, affect, and behaviour.
In such a model, prejudice is the affective component of the intergroup attitude.
Most researchers however, soon abandoned the prejudice-as-emotion definition,
in favour of more complex definitions of prejudice.
Prejudice as an Attitude
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During the 1960s, and especially with the rise of social cognition in the early
1970s, researchers started regarding prejudice as an evaluation of a stimulus. As
such, prejudice is essentially an attitude. Like an attitude, therefore prejudice is
seen by most researchers to have cognitive, affective and behavioural
One problem with the earlier definitions of prejudice concerns the focus on the
negative affect toward the outgroup. This unnecessarily limits the definitions of
prejudice, because prejudice can also refer to positive prejudice in favour of one’s
ingroup (ingroup favouritism).
Prejudice can be based on affective (e.g. anger), cognitive (e.g., beliefs linking
hostility to the outgroup), or behavioural (e.g., avoidant or hostile) sources and
can result in cognitive, behavioural, and affective expressions of prejudice. It
seems, though, that affect is a common, influential basis upon which most
prejudice is based.
Stronger, more obvious forms of prejudice are more likely to be based on an
absence of positive feelings, about the outgroup.
A recent, interesting approach by Eagly and Diekman suggest that prejudice
should be regarded as an “attitude-in-context.” According to this model, prejudice
is not inflexible; rather, it depends on the match (or lack thereof) between the
social role into which the stereotyped individual is trying to fit and the beliefs of
the perceiver about the attributes that are required for success in that role. It the
role is highly valued, the prototypical member in the role will tend to be viewed
only slightly more positively than a role-incongruent individual in that position.
Eagly and Diekman argue that prejudice is most likely to be displayed toward a
disadvantaged group when that group tries to move into roles for which they are
believed by the majority group to be unqualified.
There have been some critics of the prejudice-as-attitude approach, however.
Criticism centers around a couple of core problems. First, some theorists assert
that an attitude (or evaluation) is not the same as affect. If prejudice is an affect-
based reaction to a stimulus group, then it cannot be the case that an evaluation of
the group is the same thing as prejudice. Second, Devine, asserts that the notion
that prejudice has an affective, cognitive, and behavioural component is
problematic because research shows that the three component are not always
Prejudice as a “Social Emotion”
In an insightful paper, Smith draws on appraisal theories of emotion and self-
categorization theory to suggest a new conceptualization of prejudice. Self-
categorization theory states that people view themselves as a member of a social
category or group. According to this theory, intergroup interactions will make
salient particular group categorizations, depending on the nature of the group
According to Smith and Ellsworth, an appraisal is a set of cognitions that are
attached to a specific emotion. Emotion, in appraisal theory, is triggered by a
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