Psychology Sociocultural Level of Analysis


Stereotype: a social perception of an individual in terms of the group membership or physical attributes generalization that is made about a group and then attributed to members within the group can be either positive or negative ex: women are talented speakers/bad drivers a form of social categorization that affects the behavior of those who hold the stereotype and labeled by the stereotype a result of schema processing

  • Aronson et al. (2010): eneralizations; similar characteristics assigned to group members, despite differences between the members of the group Stereotype is learned based through daily interactions, conversations, and through media also based on individual experiences as well as cultural/social factors stereotypes are contextualized and not simply the results of individual cognitive processing stereotypes can be shared by large sociocultural group as social representations Most common cognitive process in stereotyping is social categorization (Tajfel, 1969) fundamental to human nature and it helps to make world more predictable when stereotypes are formed they act as cognitive schemas in information processing
  • Katz and Braley (1933): Investigated whether stereotypes had cultural basis 100 male students of Princeton University asked to choose five traits to characterize different ethnic groups (Americans, Japanese, Jews, Negroes, etc) from list of 84 word RESULTS: considerable agreement on stereotypes of the groups, especially negative traits 84% says Negroes were superstitious and 79% says Jews are shrewd Positive toward own group (ingroup bias) Most students don’t have personal contact with members of the groups they had to rate – stereotypes are learned (through media or by gatekeepers – cultural products)
  • Gilbert (1951): Replicated the study of Princeton students ^ ess uniformity of agreement (esp unfavorable traits) than the 1933 study INGROUP BIAS STILL DEMONSTRATED stereotypes about Japanese are extremely negative (possibly due to the press about Pearl Harbor) – original hypothesis about stereotypes as cultural products was confirmed many students expressed irritation at being asked to make generalizations -;gt; social change? – it is no longer acceptable to express stereotypes openly
  • Karlins et al.

    (1969): replicated 1933 study again many objections to generalization but more agreement to the stereotypes assigned compared to 1951 re-emergence of social stereotyping in the direction of more favorable stereotypical image Devine (1989): it is important to distinguish between knowledge of stereotype and accepting the stereotype princeton does not take this into account Stereotypes are simplified mental images acting as TEMPLATES to help INTERPRET THE SOCIAL WORLD (Lipmann, 1922) Stereotyping is an automatic cognitive process (Posner and Snyder, 1975)


  • Augoustinos et al. (2006): “a stereotype is a schema, with all the properties of schemas STEREOTYPES AS SCHEMAS ARE SEEN TO HAVE THESE CHARACTERISTICS: -> energy-saving devices -> can be automatically activated -> formed over time and dependent upon experience -> stable and resistant to change -> affects behavior Campbell (1967): ‘grain of truth’ hypothesis stereotypes dependent on interaction with individual group members ‘gate keepers” – media, parents, other members of our culture
  • Cohen (1981): participants shown a video of woman having dinner with husband half P’s told the woman is a waitress, the other half told she was a librarian RESULTS: participants tend to remember different details when they are told different things

CONCLUSION: p’s showed better recall for stereotype-consistent information. Those who thought she was a waitress remembered beer-drinking; those who thought she was a librarian more likely to remember that she was wearing glasses and was istening to classical music stereotypes are very much like schemas – makes people recall more distinctive things known for that category

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  • Fiske ;amp; Dyer (1985); Bem (1985): gender-schematic processing theory of gender development
  • Bargh et al. (1996): automatic stereotype activation participants asked to complete a test involving 30 items presented as a language proficiency task – each of the 30 words consistent of five unrelated words; for each of the five P’s ahd to use four of the five words to form as fast as possible, a grammatically correct sentence 2 conditions: containing words related to elderly, containing words unrelated to elderly stereotype afterwards, P’s directed to elevator, confederate timed how long the participants took to walk from experiment room to elevator

RESULTS: articipants who had their elderly stereotype activated walked significantly slower to the elevator than the rest of the participants priming of this stereotype taken place unconsciously no words related to time or speed or elderly stereotype was ever in evidence for the duration of the study ILLUSORY CORRELATION perception of a relationship where none exists, or perception of a stronger relationship than actually exists. a false impression that two variables correlate

  • Hamilton and Gifford (1976): participants read descriptions about 2 made-up groups (A and B), descriptions based on number of positive and negative behaviors A (majority group) had twice as many members than B (minority group) A performed 18+ and 8- behaviors

B performed 9+ and 4- behaviors twice as many positive acts are done than negative no correlation between group membership and types of behaviors exhibited by groups RESULTS: participants perceived illusory correlation – more of the undesirable behavior were attributed to minority group B than A EXPLANATION: distinctive information draws attention B and negative behavior are both numerically fewer and therefore more distinct than A B standout more and causes the IC SIT THEORIES based on category accentuation effect and positive distinctiveness CAE: accentuating the differences between groups positive distinctiveness: showing ingroup is better than outgroup Sherman et al. 2009): we pay more attention to those ingroup and outgroup members who maximize positive distinctiveness conforming accountants draw more attention than independently minded ones in the minds of members of an artistically inclined group facilitated by biased way in which ethnocentrism affects the ways we attribute +/- behaviors to ingroup and outgroup members

Similarities and differences between SIT and social-cognitive theories on stereotypes:

  • SC simplifies social perception; in SIT it enriches social perception participants make sense of trivial categories introduced by experimenter – elaborating on what is an ingroup/outgroup means in the situation (Hogg and Vaughan, 2008)
  • Unlike SC, SIT theorists don’t think stereotypes have biasing effect on social perception
  • Social-cognitive accounts conceptualize stereotypes as stored mental scehmas with fixed content, but SIT shows that stereotypes are flexible and changeable within the context Haslam and Turner (1992): Australian participants report their perception of Americans in context than encourage comparisons with Soviet Union or with Iraq with Soviets, Americans seen as aggressive with Iraqis, Americans seen as less aggressive

CONCLUSION: views of stereotypes are flexible and context-dependent rather than fixed pictures held by groups about each other


Jost and Banaji (1994): system-justification theory, stereotypes used to justify social and power relations in society distinction between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, etc.

laims social-cognitive and SIT approaches don’t explain negative self-stereotyping Moscovici (1984): social representations are shared beliefs of society we live in or the group to which we belong not outcome of individual cognitive functioning (unlike schemas) widely shared and emerge from social and cultural life of individual biases (associated with stereotypes) are not just the result of ineffective information processing, but also social representations which reflect dominant preconceptions shared by social groups


Social groups are categorized into ingroups and outgroups once people are categorized into groups, they tend to emphasize similarities within the group and differences between the groups Stereotypes of outgroups are central to group identity

People tend to pay attention to stereotype-consistent information and disregard stereotype-inconsistency (CONFIRMATION BIAS) Negative stereotypes may be internalized by stereotyped groups (stereotype threat) * Spencer et al. (1999): informing female participants males do better in math leds to decline in female performance on the math test * Darley and Gross (1983): researchers showed videos of a girl to participants video 1: girl playing in poor environment (poor stereotype) video 2: girl playing in rich environment (rich stereotype) all – video of a girl doing an intelligence test participants asked to judge the future of the girl

RESULTS: participants in video 1 says the girl will do less well; participants in video 2 says the girl will do well

CONCLUSION: ased on a few details from the first video participants saw, they formed an overall impression of the girl’s potential future based on stereotype

* Steele and Aronson (1995): African Americans and European Americans – did verbal performance test based on difficult multiple-choice questions

RESULTS: when told this was test on verbal ability, African Americans scored lower than European Americans When told this was a task used to test how certain problems are generally solved, African Americans scored higher and matched the scores of European Americans **same results are found with females (in math) and lower social class)

CONCLUSION: Stereotype threat could affect behavior in any stereotyped group if members themselves believe in the stereotype