Chapter 9: Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination
Prejudice: A negative attitude toward members of a certain group, which is often very
strongly held (perceiver “prejudges” the target, disliking them based only on their group
o One possible consequence of prejudice is Discrimination.
Discrimination: Negative, harmful behaviour (i.e. aggression) towards people based on
their group membership.
Whereas prejudice is an attitude, discrimination is behaviour. Discrimination can be a
mild behaviour such as not talking to, or avoiding contact with members of a group;
however, discrimination can also be a severe behaviour that leads a person to attempt
to systematically eliminate an entire ethnic group, which is known as Genocide.
Stereotypes: Individuals’ beliefs that members of a group share particular attributes
(can be negative OR positive).
o Negative stereotypes can provide the basis of prejudice and discrimination.
Prejudice and Discrimination Today
Compared to 20-30 years ago, there is much less discrimination; most Canadians are
favourable towards minority groups.
Discrimination has been made illegal, and equal access has become mandatory policy
for employers in the public and private sectors.
Social norms now censure (disapprove) prejudice, and people are less likely to express
negative feelings publically. But some groups are sill victims of hate crimes.
Some people may feel negative towards a minority group, but try to avoid displaying
discrimination. Also, some people may even be fooling themselves into thinking hey are
unprejudiced, but in fact, they remain biased against members of disadvantaged groups.
In today’s age, blatant racial discrimination has been replaced by more subtle and
o This new kind of discrimination is known as adverse discrimination.
Adverse Discrimination: A new “modern” kind of prejudice held by people who do not
consider themselves prejudiced and who would find any accusation of being prejudiced
aversive (disliked), but who nevertheless harbor some negative beliefs and hostile
feelings towards members of minority groups.
o In a study done by Dovido and Gaertner, there was interview being conducted
by a participant for a position open between a black male and a white male.
When their credentials were ambiguous (neither bad, nor better), 77% of the
time, the white male was preferred over the black male.
o This shows that discrimination still exists, even though the participant may not
blatantly show it.
o A more systematic way of testing prejudice, is by having a participant do an
Implicit Association Test (IAT), that measures people’s automatic, implicit
(unconscious, uncontrollable actions and thoughts). Facial EMGs can also be
used as a physiological measure of prejudice (measures facial muscle
movements). Stereotypes: Cognitive Sources of Prejudice and Discrimination
The key element in the cognitive view of prejudice is stereotypes.
o Someone might believe that doctors are intelligent and compassionate, or that
hockey players are strong and aggressive, and etc.
Stereotypes qualify as a kind of schema– namely, schemas that represent human groups
In chapter 3, we saw that schemas serve important functions for us: they allow us to
sort objects into categories, to make assumptions about those objects, and thereby to
impose meaning and predictability on our environment.
We called this process “going beyond the information given.” In the sense that we are
inferring other, nonvisible characteristics about the object on the basis of our
o Ex: We assume fire is hot without touching it. We have already categorized fire
as hot from past experiences. Next time we will know its hot without touching it
In a much similar way, we make assumptions about people when we categorize them
into groups BASED ON stereotypes.
o Ex. When you recognize a woman as an RCMP officer, you can probably assume
things as she wants to upload the law, she is armed, and will help you if asked to
do so. These assumptions can be made quickly and effortlessly and will provide
a solid basis for behavioural decisions.
o Thus, stereotypes “efficiently” provide us with information about target persons
that can guide behaviour.
Two Costs of Stereotypes: Oversimplification and Negativity
Stereotypes can also have big costs associated with using them: oversimplification and
1) First, we may assume too much conformity or similarity within groups of people,
especially with respect to large collections such as ethnic groups, nationalities, genders,
o Outgroup Homogeneity Effect: The tendency for perceivers to overestimate the
similarity within groups to which they do NOT belong.
I.e. Do you think all citizens of a particular country like Iran are all the
same and fit under one similarity?
o Categories of humans tend NOT to be uniform or predictable compared to
categories of inanimate objects and plants.
I.e. Poison ivy plants will ALWAYS cause an itchy rash when touched;
apples ALWAYS grow on trees; fire is ALWAYS hot.
In contrast, women are NOT always emotional; hockey players are NOT
always aggressive; lawyers are NOT always wealthy.
o Stereotypes of large groups are oversimplified and, when applied to a particular
individual, are often inaccurate.
Stereotypes will not apply to everyone
2) Second cost of stereotype is that they are often unfavourable in tone.
o Although some stereotypes have positive characteristics, other stereotypes
contain negative traits o Why are stereotypes often unfavourable?
One reason is that they may refer to groups that are believed to
be competing with the perceiver’s group for desired resources
(i.e. an minority immigrant looking for a job).
2) Mood Differences
Also, being in a bad mood leads perceivers to interpret their
stereotypes of some minority groups more negatively. (i.e. a
close-knit minority immigrant community might be perceived as
friendly and family-loving when the perceiver is happy;
however, when in a bad mood, it might be perceived as cliquish
or secretive; negative attitudes).
Another reason that stereotypes are negative is that people
may be unfamiliar with members of the targeted group, and
feel anxious or uncomfortable when interacting with them;
people may blame their anxiety as dislike for the group. This
may lead into mistrust and hostility.
Stereotypes Distort Information Processing
The fact that stereotypes are oversimplified and excessively negative might not be so
problematic if we processed information in an unbiased way.
However, humans are NOT open and unbiased processors of information related to
Stereotypes (like other schemas) guide attention and interpretation in such a way to
increase the probability that the perceivers’ expectancies will be confirmed.
Stereotypes Guide Attention
One way stereotypes can distort information processing is by affect what perceivers
notice about the members of the stereotyped group.
Generally, perceivers are sensitive to, and are looking for, information that confirms the
stereotype (this is where the attention is directed to).
In case trial study, 2 suspects were brought and a group of participants were given the
profiles of both suspects. However, before looking at the case materials, the
participants were told one suspect’s description as white-American, and the other’s
description as a Hispanic American. The latter fit the stereotype that Hispanics are
generally dangerous people with drug wars and etc… This lead to the participants
shifting their attention, paying more attention to the Hispanic’s evidence leading to a
guilty charge compared to the White-American. Note that both suspect’s had equal
degrees of evidence of being served guilty (one wasn’t more guilty than the other
theoretically). Stereotypes Guide Interpretation
Stereotypes can also distort information 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 expectations.
Example: Case-Study (LECTURE EXAMPLE)
o Grade 6 students looked at drawings of Black and White models engaging in
potentially aggressive behaviours (one bay took a pencil away from another
without asking permission). The students of the case study saw that the actions
were more aggressive when performed by a black model than a white model
(this fits a common, damaging stereotype of blacks that they can be aggressive
o BOTH white and black students in the study thought this
Example: Stereotypes affect what we retrieve (LECTURE EXAMPLE)
o Participants read essay describing the teenage years of a young woman
o After the essay was removed, participants were told the woman was:
o Participants’ memory for information in the essay was then unexpectedly tested
o Participants told she was heterosexual showed better recall of information
consistent with this stereotype (i.e. wore makeup and dated in high school)
o Participants told she was lesbian showed better recall of information consistent
with this stereotype (i.e. felt closer to father than mother and did not enjoy
In another study, participants’ interpretation of people was studied through video
games. The participants had to decide to whether the opponent (white or black targets)
in the video game was armed or unarmed, and if armed should be shot.
o The stereotype was that the black targets would be more dangerous and armed.
o It was seen that white participants were faster to judge correctly that the black
targets were armed than to correctly judge if white participants were armed.
Furthermore, participants were more likely to erroneously press “shoot” at
unarmed black men.
o This test was repeated with black participants, and the same effect was seen.
Therefore, it could not have been prejudice or disliking of members that lead to
shooting more unarmed black targets, but rather that stereotypes blocked the
participants from interpreting the situation correctly.
The Potential Vicious Cycle of Stereotypes
Another person’s behaviour may be affected in a way we initially respond to them; they
will respond by confirming to the way you initially acted.
o For example, when meeting a psychiatric patient, if you initially act anxious or
scared, or protective, it might change the way the way the patient behaves
towards you. Had you acted more relaxed, the patient could have acted more
welcoming. Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: 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 In other words, expecting another person to behave in a certain way, affects
you to behave differently, and causes the other person to behave the way you
thought they would behave.
o The perceiver has acted in a way to make his or her own prophecy come true
o (1) Work supervisor believes members of a group are lazy
o (2) Treats members suspiciously and gives them little responsibility
o (3) Members perceive they are disliked and do not work hard (act lazy)
Example: Mark Snyder et al., 1977 (LECTURE EXAMPLE – IMPORTANT)
o Focused on stereotype of physically attractive people: they are assumed to be
warm and sociable
One male and one female university student participated in pairs. Did not meet
face-to-face (different rooms)
o Told that the study was investigating impression formation. Participants talked
on an intercom. Male participants given photograph allegedly of their female
partner (but not really). Photo was either low or high in physical attractiveness.
o Females did not know the male had photo. Participants talked over the
intercom for 15 minutes – a “get acquainted” conversation.
o Each participant’s voice was recorded on a separate audio track
o Judges later listened to each woman’s half of the conversation only and rated
her for warmth, sociability. Judges were “blind”: they did NOT know which
condition (attractive or unattractive photo) each woman was in
o Results: Women who were interacting with a man who believed her to be
physically attractive were rated as warmer and more sociable than women who
were interacting with a man who believed her to be unattractive
o Why? Man expected attractive woman to be warm, so he was warm himself,
which elicited warmth from the woman!. This is an example of a positive
stereotype (attractive people) eliciting favourable behaviour
o The opposite can also occur: a negative stereotype can elicit unfavourable
Note: If targets are aware of someone’s expectancies, they may work to disapprove 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 Also, targets may sometimes behave consistently with a negative stereotype,
simply to maintain a smooth interaction.
o Also, when individuals are aware that someone expects them to do poorly, their
attempt to disconfirm the expectancy can sometimes hurt their performance
(people sometimes can “choke” when trying to disprove a negative stereotype) Do Stereotypes Influence Our Perceptions If We Disagree with Them?
Subliminal Priming Procedure: A method of activating a schema or stereotype by
flashing words or pictures very briefly on a computer screen in front of a participant.
o At these fast exposure speeds, participants can only see a flash of light and
cannot even say whether the presentation was a word.
o However, it turns out that participants do perceive such stimuli subconsciously,
and concepts related to the words or pictures become activated in memory.
o In a presentation, half of participants were exposed to subliminal messaging of
strong stereotypes of black Americans, and other half were exposed to neutral
stereotypes of black americans (common stereotype was hostility).
o After the presentation, participants completed a task in which they were given a
written description of a young man (race unspecified) who engaged in actions
that were ambiguous (could have been assertive, which is positive, or hostile,
which is negative)
o Participants who were primed by the presentation’s subliminal messaging rated
the man more hostile, even if they were or weren’t prejudice against black
o Therefore, participants can be primed to a certain stereotype towards a race
without even knowing it (they could be normally unprejudiced towards the
Implicit Intergroup Bias
This notion that stereotypes can automatically influence judgments without the
perceiver’s awareness has been termed Implicit Intergroup Bias.
Meta-Stereotypes: A person’s beliefs about the stereotype that outgroup members
hold concerning his or her own group.
For example, a white Canadian may believe that Aboriginal Canadians hold a negative
stereotype of his or her group.
Meta-stereotypes may vary according to which particular group is considered (i.e. the
above example maybe different if Asian Canadians are considered).
Can influence perceptions and behaviors just like stereotypes and can be favourable or
If members of two groups interact who: (negative meta-stereotype)
o Have negative stereotype of other group OR Think other group doesnt like them
There may be a vicious cycle of mistrust, disliking, and negative behaviour. Or, perhaps
even more likely, the groups will avoid one another
NOTE: Meta-stereotypes influence people’s expectations about their interactions with
members of the outgroup.
o For example, people who believe that their group is viewed negatively by an
outgroup, tend to anticipate unpleasant interactions with members of that
outgroup Relates to self-fulfilling prophecies. EMOTIONAL SOURCES OF PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION
Emotional or motivational processes can contribute to prejudice and discrimination.
For example, prejudice sometimes results from negative emotions such frustration.
Prejudice may also sometimes satisfy basic motives, such as the need to evaluate the
A: Frustration and Prejudice: Scapegoat Theory
Scapegoat Theory: A theory proposing that prejudice occurs because members of
dominant groups use discrimination against members of weak target groups to vent
their frustration and disappointment.
B: Perceived Competition and Prejudice: 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.
The competitive hostility can lead, in turn, to prejudice.
Realistic Group Conflict Theory: A theory proposing that when groups in society are
perceived to be competing with one another for resources, intergroup hostility van be
aroused, which leads to prejudice.
o Ex: Pakistan and India competing over land, such as Kashmir.
o Ex: Immigrants competing with current residents for jobs.
Sometimes groups perceive not only competition for scarce resources from members of
outgroups, but also threats to important values.
People may believe that members of another group (i.e. Pakistani immigrants to
Canada) bring with them a set of values and customs that threaten the status quo.
The cultural threat can produce intergroup anxiety, resentment, and prejudice.
C: Self-Enhancement Motivation: Social Identity Theory
A third related factor in prejudice involves a potential positive emotional benefit of
derogating outgroups: feeling goo