CH. 2: Origin and Maintenance of Stereotypes and Prejudice
- Kurt Lewin, father of modern social psychology suggested tht social science, and psych
in particular ought to have strong applied focus with the aim of addressing social
problems and informing social policy and legislation with the goal of improving the
welfare of humanity
The Formation of Stereotypes
- Stereotype was once regarding as a sign of the moral deficiency of the stereotyper, or as
an indicator of repressed unconscious hostility.
- Cognitive psychologists found tht the human brain seems to almost automatically
classify or categorize similar objects in the environment. This is shown in children as
young as 6 months.
- Most ppl now agree with Alport that stereotypes as a natural consequence of cognition
Why We Categorize
- When we see a person we automatically assess that person on the basis of our
perception of that person’s features.
- We categorize as we have a limited capacity cognitive system that cannot
simultaneously process all the available information in our social environment. Because
we have a need to understand and anticipate behavior of others, humans have
developed ways around our limited cognitive system, one of them is categorization
- We categorize ppl (objects, ideas, etc.) on the basis of shared features or even shared
time and space
- Based on Aristotle’s principle of association, we assume tht things are similar on the
basis of one feature or because they occur together will likely have other notable
similarities on a number of dimensions
Types of Categorization
- When we perceive an individual, we classify tht person in a few broad categories like
race, gender, and age
- These are the most obvious and immediate features of an individual and because 3
categories yield much info abt useful distinctions in social behaviour btwn those in diff
grps. These categories are referred to as basic categories or primitive categories that
have strong influences as it if most or all of the other info abt the perceived individual.
- Mere exposure to a face or a gender grp can immediately evoke the associated
cognitions, beliefs, and feelings one has for tht grp.
- Stereotypes aren’t automatically activated for all stimuli. Specifically some rsrch as
indicated tht upon perceiving category words, we automatically think of associatied stereotypes for that category, yet when seeing a member of one of these grps, we do not
automatically think of all of the stereotypes for the grps (race, gender, age ,etc) which
the person belongs
- Macrae and colleagues suggest tht the way the person categorizes a picture of individual
depends on the perceiver’s motives, cognitions, and affect. Only when the perceiver
wants to quickly evaluate the target in the picture do stereotypes become activated as a
useful means of arriving at an attitude toward the target.
In-groups and Out-groups
- In groups are groups to which we belong and out-groups are groups to which we do not
belong. Ingroups can be quite numerous. How you partition ppl in these grps depends
on your current, salient, motives, fears, goals, and expectations.
- Taylor and colleagues demonstrated the effect of one’s salient grps on perception and
memory for social information. These rsrchers found tht when participants were
exposed to a discussion grp of African Amercians and Caucasians, participants were
generally accurate at recalling the race of the person who made a particular comment
but were less accurate at specifying the particular individual who made the statement.
It appears tht ppl tended to perceive and rmr the info in terms of race categories, and
not in terms of the individual identity
- Outgrps are perceived as those who share similar characteristics, motives and other
features. But when it’s your in-group you think everyone is unique who have one or two
common features like an occupation. Those out-group members who most closely
resemble what one believes is the typical or representative member of an out-group
will be mre likely to be perceived stereotypically than those who have fewer of the
stereotyped characteristics of the typical outgrp member.
- It can also affect criminal sentencing. Individuals with more African features (those
typical of blacks) received significantly harsher sentences. Tendency to think in these
terms has been referred to as outgrp homogeneity and ingrp bias (favouritism)
- Perceiving outgrps as all alike and ingrps as diverse helps us satisfy 2 major goals: we
greatly simplify our social environment by categorizing others in tht way and we
enhance our self-concept by thinking tht we don’t belong to a homogeneous type of grp
where all members are similar in many dimensions instead we think we’re unique and
attribute positive attributes to ingrp members
- Thinking favourably abt one grps meant tht one was motivated to distinguish one’s grp
favourably relative to other grps and this provided the basis for not merely outgrp
homogeneity but outgrp derogation. So, in favouring our ingrps, we also tend to put
down or attribute negative characteristics to, outgroups.
- A study examined facilitative/inhibitory aspects for trait descriptors of one’s ingrp vs
outgrps. Paticipants’ reaction time to positive person descpritors were faster when
preceded by a priming word tht denoted one’s ingrp (words like us, we, our). Their
reaction time were slower to negative person descriptors when preceded by those ingrp primes. When participants were presented with outgrp priming words (they,
them), their reaction times to neg person descriptors was not facilitated, so thinking abt
outgrps doesn’t necessarily lead one to be prone to readily process and accept negative
info abt tht outgrp.
- More homogenous the grp is seemed, greater the likelihood for perceivers to use grp or
stereotype labels to process info abt the outgrp and its members. This thinking can in
fact lead outgrp derogation and outgrp discrimination
- Expore to outgrp members can lead to more stereotypes (homogenous) or
heterogenous (more positive) depending on the context. if they do something negative
then stereotypes will be more reinforced and reduces likelihood tht the perceiver will
wish to interact further with the grp and evaluation of the grp becomes more negative
- Rsrch ash revealed more fundamentl element of ingrp vs. outgrp categorization:
dimension on which ppl are viewed as ingrp or outgrp members does not need to be a
meaningful one (racial, political) in order for ingrp and outgrp biases to occur.
- Grps tht have no meaningful basis for their membership, known as minimal groups
would exhibit the sme ingrp favoritism found in more meaningful ingrps (grps based on
race or gender). Minimal grps are called tht because they have none of the usual
features of grp structure: a coherent grp structure, face to face interaction, a set of
norms for the grp members, interactions with the other grps etc.
- By age 5, children show distinct recognition of and preferences for, some grps over
others including race and gender preferences. Allport suggested that there is a definite
link btwn the prejudiced attitudes of parents and the dvlpmnt of such attitudes in their
children. He supported the idea tht children of parents who were authoritarian (parents
who expected child to obey, never disagree, and to keep quiet and who were more strict
disciplinarians) were more likely to dvlp prejudiced attitudes.
- Allport also argued tht it is important to distinguish btwn the teaching and the dvlpmnt
of stereotyped attitudes and prejudice. Some parents explicitly and directly teach their
children abt their attitudes and values, and specifically communicate their stereotypes
and prejudice to the child. Allport suggests tht prejudice wasn’t taught by the parent but
was caught by the child from an infected atmosphere.
Childhood Intergroup Contact
- Wood and Sonleitner suggest tht childhood interracial contact is a good predictor of
adult endorsement of outgrp stereotypes and prejudiced attitudes.
Value Transmissions in Families
- Racial attitudes are not inborn and neither is it the case tht race doesn’t influence a
child’s perception of the world until years later - Indeed rsrch has shown tht most 3 and 4 yr olds show an awareness of racial cues and
show a preference for one race over others. As they get older, their attitudes abt racial
grps become more coherent, complex, and intense.
- At the early age of life (approx age 10 or so), children are essentially parroting the
outgrp sentiments of their parents.
- Rohan and Zanna found tht there is support for the notion tht parents and their adult
children are very similar in intergrp attitudes. The biggest factor tht seemed to
influence the degree of parent and child itnergrp attitude similarity was whether the
parents exhibited right wing authoritarianism
- Low RWA- children similar to parents but high RWA parents their children was more
complex, and depened on whether the child saw the parent as responsive. High RWA
respnive parents were much mre attitudinally similar to their parents compared to
those who viewed their parents as unresponsive. So, children will adopt attitudes and
values similar to those of their parents except when the parents are demanding (high
RWAs) and unresponsive.
Influence of Stereotypes on Cognition in Children
- Majority grp children held more positive attitudes toward their own grp and more neg
attitudes toward outgrps. Interestingly, minority grp members also held more positive
views of the majority grp than of their own ingrp.
- When asked to explain successful performances of majority grp members, both majority
grp children and minority grp children made positive, internal, and optimistic
attributions. Hwever attributed successful performances of minority grp members to
- Majority and minority grp members tend to rmr more positive and few neg behaviours
abt majority grp and more neg and few pos behaviours abt the minority grp
- Stereotype threat on stereotype relevant tasks; their anxiety abt confirming poor
stereotypic performance on the task impedes their performance
- We all have our own ideas of wht personality characteristics seem to go together in pl,
and we also have our own ideas abt the nature of personality. These beliefs are implicit
theories because these beliefs and heuristics guide one’s processing of social info and
help us to evaluate (and sometimes stereotype) others.
- Entity theorists- believe tht one’s personality traits are fixed and cannot be
changed, while others, termed incremental theorists believe tht one’s personality
traits are flexible an can be modified.
- Entity theorists tend to believe tht because traits are fixed, they’re stable indicators of
behaviour and believe tht behaviour is consistent. As a result, they should also be more
likely to infer a host of related target personality characteristics based on an isolated
behaviour by the target. Incremental theorists should be less likely to make such an inference because they’re more cognizant of the belief tht behaviour (and personality)
is less predictable just based on one sample of behaviour.
- One’s implicit theories abt the content and nature of personality can have a profound
effect on one’s subsequent beliefs about other groups.
The Efficiency of Stereotypes
- We tend to reserve our considered cognitive efforts for those instances in which we are
motivated to be accurate in our assessment of a slect other person (a team mate,
prospective employee or mate etc) and the rest we use stereotypes that we think has