Monday, March 2, 2020

Psychology of Stereotypes

A stereotype is a cognition composed of generalized images, beliefs, and feelings about the characteristics of members of a group or a socially constructed category.

Stereotypes typically rely on salient features based on experience with group members or shared by those in one's culture. Stereotypes usually ignore the variety of features true of people in a group.

Stereotypes are usually negative but positive stereotypes exist. It is very difficult to change a stereotype.

Group stereotypes
Group stereotypes are those cognitions that consider all members of a recognized group to have the same characteristics. Commonly recognized groups can include religions (e.g., Christians, Jews, Muslims), political parties (e.g., Republicans, Democrats), organizations (e.g., Red Cross, ACLU), businesses, and nations (e.g., Americans, Germans), Race (e.g., Blacks, Whites), Ethnicity (e.g., Mexican American, Native American).

People may hold separate stereotypes about the people in various subgroups (e.g., Catholics, Methodists).

Socially constructed category stereotypes
Socially constructed category stereotypes are stereotypes that people apply to categories of people, which may be based on one or a few features. Social categories often include demographic characteristics like age categories (seniors, adolescents), gender categories (women, men, gays, lesbians), ethnic categories (e.g, Whites, Blacks, Caucasians, Native Americans), social values (liberals, conservatives).

Research on stereotypes

Research on stereotypes is relevant to understanding intergroup behavior. Tajfel (1982) adopts the definition of stereotype offered by Stallybrass (1977).

"…an over-simplified mental image of (usually) some category of person, institution or event which is shared, in essential features, by large numbers of people... Stereotypes are commonly, but not necessarily, accompanied by prejudice, i.e. by a favorable or unfavorable predisposition toward any member of the category in question ("p .601).

Stereotypes develop from salient characteristics, which then become an available heuristic assumed to apply to a group as a whole. People can become category prototypes. Leaders in politics, organizations, or religion are seen as holding representative views and traits of their groups.

A solo status phenomenon occurs when a person or a few people stand out as different from the rest of the group. Their characteristics then become exaggerated in both positive and negative ways. For example, a black worker in a group of white workers or a woman in a men’s work group.

Research on illusory correlations is also relevant to stereotyping. When a minority perform a behavior, there is an assumption that all members of the minority perform the same behavior.

Books on Stereotypes

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do 



Books on Social Psychology




References


Stallybrass, O. (1977). Stereotype. In The Fontana dictionary of modern thought, A. Bullock, O. Stallybrass (Eds.)., p. 601. London: Fontana/Collins.
Tajfel, H. (1982). Social psychology of intergroup relations. Annual Review of Psychology, 33, 1-39.

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