By forming groups, humans have found that it is possible to construct their environment such that their
daily lives are easier. It is reasonable to suggest that ‘groups are the basic building blocks of society’.
Groups are not unique to humans and group members tend to favour their own groups (ingroups) over
other groups in which they do not belong (outgroups). Even when group membership is abed on the
most arbitrary criteria (minimal groups), people tend to show preference towards their ingroup.
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). Such ingroup preferences may
underlie more severe negative behaviour toward other groups, such as intergroup hostility and violence.
Humans are often far from logical in their thinking, and ingroup favouritism and negative attitudes
toward members of other groups remain a pervasive aspect of human society today. Virtually al lof
history’s wars, battles, and other acts of group violence have been driven by some form of prejudice,
stereotyping, and/or discrimination. While it is the case that overt expressions of racial prejudice and
intergroup hatred have declined dramatically, racial prejudice and stereotypes have by no means
The book will look at motivations (they why), the situations and contexts (the when), the individual
difference variables and traits (the who), and the affective and cognitive processes (the how) that lead
to stereotyping and prejudice.
The word stereotype originally derives from a term to describe a printing process in which fixed casts of
material are reproduced/ Lippmann then used the word stereotype 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 they each shared. He said we all have ‘pictures in our heads’ of the world and these
representations are more like templates into which we try to simplify the sometimes confusing
information we receive from the world. Lippmann was correct in two respects. One, he was right that
stereotypes tell us what social information is important to perceive and to disregard in our environment.
Stereotyping: From Bad to Neutral
Lippmann did not express any particular evaluation of the nature of stereotyping, researchers soon
began to regard stereotyping as a very negative, lazy way or perceiving social groups. Some researchers
characterized stereotypes as examples of rigid thinking while many regarded stereotyping as an external
sign of the stereotyper’s moral defectiveness. Allport defined stereotype by writing that ‘a stereotype is
an exaggerated belief associated with a category’. Other researchers argued that stereotyping ought to
be examined as a normal psychological process.
The Social Cognitive Definition Brigham (1971) defined stereotyping as ‘a generalization made about a ... group concerning a trait
attribution, which is considered to be unjustified by an observer’. A stereotype is any generalization
about a group whether an observer believes it is justified or not.
Other researchers have adopted Hamilton and Trolier’s (1986) definition of a stereotype as ‘a cognitive
structure that contains the perceiver’s knowledge, beliefs, and expectations about a human group’. This
definition sounds like the definition of a schema and schemas are therefore broader cognitive structures
that contain our knowledge of a stimulus, our expectations for the motives or behaviour of the stimulus,
and our feelings toward the stimulus. Stereotypes are much more specific and are subsumed within a
Ashmore and Del Boca (1981) defines stereotypes as ‘a set of beliefs about the personal attributes of a
group of people’. Most social cognition researchers today define stereotype in this fashion.
Cultural and Individual Stereotypes
A cultural stereotype describes ‘shared or community-wide patterns of belief’ whereas an individual
stereotype describes the beliefs held by an individual about the characteristics of a group. One’s cultural
stereotype about a group may not be the same as one’s individual stereotype about the group.
Is Stereotype an Attitude?
Some researchers believe that a stereotype is similar to an attitude, which is a general evaluation of
some object. Any attitude is usually viewed as falling somewhere on a good-bad, or favourable-non
favourable dimension. Researchers have traditionally viewed attitudes as comprising three components:
a behavioural component, an affective component, and a cognitive component. Researchers agree that
stereotype represent only the cognitive portion of any intergroup attitude while affect correspond to
prejudice and behaviour correspond to discrimination. Discrimination is defined as any negative
behaviour directed toward an individual based on their membership in a group. Stereotype is not an
Positive Versus Negative Stereotypes
Researchers do not regard stereotypes as being bad or good and rather they are just generalizations
about a group.
Gardner suggests the word prejudice can be taken literally to indicial a prejudgement about something.
At a further level of specificity, prejudice can suggest an evaluation, either positive or negative, toward a
stimulus. Gardner specified another definition of prejudice, in which the individual has a negative
evaluation of another stimulus.
Prejudice as Negative Affect In his book The Nature of Prejudice Allport defined prejudice as ‘an antipathy (intense dislike) based
upon a faulty and inflexible generalization. It may be felt or expressed. It may be directed toward a
group as a whole, or toward an individual because he is a member of that group’. Most researchers,
however, soon abandoned the prejudice-as-emotion definition, in favour of more complex definitions of
Prejudice as an attitude
Prejudice is essentially an attitude, and like one, therefore, prejudice is seen by most researchers to
have cognitive, affective, and behavioural components. One problem with earlier definitions of
prejudice concerns the focus on the negative affect toward the outgroup because prejudice can also
refer to positive prejudice in favour of one’s ingroup.
Prejudice can be based on affective, cognitive, or behavioural sources and can result in cognitive,
behavioural, or affective expressions of prejudice. It seems though that affect is a common influential
basis upon which most prejudice is based. It was found that the best predictor of negative outgroup
prejudice was based on a lack of positive emotions and based on these findings, some have suggested
that stronger, more obvious forms of prejudice are more likely to be based on strong negative emotions,
whereas more subtle types of prejudice are more likely to be based on the absence of positive feelings
about the outgroup.
Jackson, Hodge, Gerard, Ingram, Ervin, and Sheppard (1996) found that affect and behaviour was the
strongest predictor of group attitudes. The authors suggest that intergroup interaction is dependent on
how good people feel, not how well they think of group members.
Eagly and Diekman (2005) suggests 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 individuals is trying to fit and the beliefs of the
perceiver about the attributes that are required for success in that role. They argue that prejudice is
most likely to be displayed toward a disadvantaged group when that group tires to move into roles for
which they are believed by the majority group to be unqualified. Two criticisms: some theorists assert
that an attitude (or evaluation) is not the same as affect. Devine also asserts that then notion that
prejudice has an affective, cognitive, and behavioural component is problematic because research
shows that the three components are not always consistent.
Prejudice as a ‘social emotion’
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 (or bring to conscious awareness)
particular group categorizations, depending on the nature of the group interaction.
According to Smith and Ellsworth (1987), an appraisal is a set of cognitions that are attached to a specific
emotion. Emotion, in appraisal theory, is triggered by an assessment of the adaptive significance and
self-relevance of the people and events in one’s environment. Smith suggests that appraisals invariably involves the self, because they have relevance to one’s goals in some fashion. There are two key
differences in Smith’s conceptualization of prejudice that make it a unique and very useful model of
prejudice. First, he says that it is too vague to say that prejudice is a positive or negative feeling about
another group. Second, the traditional conception of prejudice suggests that if we are prejudiced against
another group, then we should react with the same negative affect to all members of the group every
time we encounter them. But this does not fit with reality. Some suggested that subtyping, whereby the
prejudiced individual maintains a negative affect toward the group but creates a separate category for
So, how we react to any give outgroup member depends on: what self category is salient for us at that
moment, in what context the interaction occurs, and how that person helps or hinders our movement
toward salient personal or group goals at that time.
Our ability to measure feelings or affect toward outgroups is not as precise as our measurements of
people’s evaluations, attitudes, or beliefs about other groups. The movement to view prejudice