The Maintenance of Stereotypes Essay
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Although the nature of stereotypes are not essentially negative it has been found that stereotypes of out-group members are more likely to be negative than those of in-group members (Castelli et al. 2005; Perdue, Dovidio, Gurtman & Tyler, 1990). Despite this fact, engaging in stereotyping still occurs. In order to adequately understand why we continue to use stereotypes, when we know of the negativity that can be attached to them, several areas need to be considered. Firstly, in the context of this essay stereotypes need to be defined.
Lippman (1922) can be credited for having coined the term as being a set of socially shared representations and beliefs about the characteristics, features and behaviours of members of a group (Lyons & Kashima, 2001). The Social Identity Theory also seeks to define stereotypes (Brown, 2000). Secondly, there are various mechanisms which occur that support the ongoing use and maintenance of stereotypes. In relation to this is priming, which has been found to be an active influence (Rudman & Borgida, 1995; Lepore & Brown, 1997; Blair & Banaji, 1996).
More recent research illustrates that stereotyping emerges as a way of simplifying the demands on an individual, a type of cognitive shortcut (Macrae et al. , 1994; Clark & Kashima, 2007). Furthermore, stereotypes can be seen as a function of social connectivity and are thus maintained through communication (Lyons & Kashima, 2006; Lyons and Kashima, 2003; Karasawa, Asai & Tanabe, 2007). This essay will attempt to look at the most recent research in the past two decades and investigate the various methods that have been found to support the preservation of stereotypes.
One of the key points with Social Identity Theory is that in the very act of categorisation, regardless of group contact, in-group preference is produced (Brown, 2000). This then defines a differentiation from out-group members (2000). This group differentiation can lead to the formation of stereotypes. Individuals seek also to perceive themselves in as optimistic light as possible, in an attempt to establish a positive distinctiveness between the self and other in-group members and between the in-group in comparison with the out-group.
This is known as the self-esteem hypothesis (2000). From understanding how stereotypes are formed through the social identity theory, we can see how they are maintained. As found by Perdue, Dovidio, Gurtman, Tyler (1990), priming plays an intricate role in influencing the opinions and judgments of individuals on out-group members. A study conducted by Rudman & Borgida (1995) primed male subjects to sexist female stereotypes through a television commercial in which women were portrayed as sexual objects.
It was found that the primed males were more likely to engender women in a sexual fashion, paying more attention to her appearance than to what she was saying. They also responded faster to sexist words pertaining to women (babe and bimbo) than to non-sexist (mother and nurture). In this way, language plays a role in unconsciously priming people to stereotypes. It helps create an in-group versus out-group bias (1990). Impressions of people are also moulded by the names and labels which are applied to them (1990). As found by Perdue et al.
(1990) ‘we’, ’us’, ‘ours’ are collective pro-nouns and are thus powerful priming influences in social cognition and perception, subtly characterising evaluative responses towards others and upholding the maintenance of stereotypes. However, in a study carried out by Blair and Banaji (1996) it was found that, although priming in stereotypes is automatically activated, an individual can control and even eliminate the automatic response, such as in gender stereotyping. In fact, it is also the individual’s intentions and cognitive resources that determine the extent to which an individual avoids the influence of such automatic processes.
For example, in their study (1996) participants were asked to judge whether a name was male or female, when primed with a gender paired word, such as caring, sensitive, weak (for females) strong, arrogant or decisive (for males) or a neutral word like autumn, jelly, sleep. When sufficient cognitive resources were available and the participants intended to process counter-stereotypic information (the gender neutral words) there was a complete reversal of stereotype priming (1996). So although priming is a powerful method in maintaining stereotypes it does not fully account for the continuation of stereotyping in the face of its negativity.
As reported by Bodenhausen (1990) instead of processing incoming or new information, stereotypes rely on previously stored knowledge and as a result information processing becomes easier. Thus the maintenance of stereotypes could be partially due to a type of cognitive laziness. Instead of flexing the grey matter muscle and using cognitive energy to process the new information, people effectively ‘rest on their laurels’, without motivation to change them they are reinforced to continue using stereotypes (Blair & Banaji, 1996).
However, as Macrae, Milne & Bodenhausen (1994) established, stereotyping can also occur as a way to free up resources which can then be used in other tasks. Either way stereotypes are a type of judgmental heuristic, a short cut we take when demands are high and resources low. For example, it was found that morning people, whose peak function was early on in the day, fell back on stereotypic responses in the afternoon and for afternoon people, whose peak function was later on in the day, it was the reverse (1990). In this case, the amount of cognitive energy was the motivation to either reject or maintain a stereotype.
In terms of the continuation of stereotypes, the motivation to reject them and process new information is thus a strong mechanism. It appears from the research (Clark & Kashima, 2007; Lyons and Kashima, 2003; Lyons and Kashima, 2006; Lyons and Kashima, 2001) that stereotype-consistent information is more likely to be communicated than stereotype-inconsistent information, called the stereotype consistency bias. To test this, Lyons and Kashima (2001) investigated communication through a chain of people.
The experiment involved one participant reading a story with stereotype-consistent and inconsistent information relevant to the stereotypes of footballers then reproducing it from memory to another person. The second person then read it to a third, and the third to a forth and so on and so forth (2001). As the story was communicated down the chain it became devoid of all stereotype-inconsistent information, effectively illustrating how communication is key in maintaining stereotypes. Clark and Kashima (2007) also found that the stereotype consistency bias would occur due to the social connectivity function found in stereotypes.
In other words; when a stereotype was perceived as being socially shared it was more likely to be used. Thus, the social connectivity aspect of communication is a strong mechanism in the continuation of them. Subtyping occurs when any information from an individual, that undermines a group’s stereotype, is functionally placed outside of the group and thus not calculated when forming a stereotype (Park, Wolsko & Judd, 2001). This leaves the overall stereotype unchanged even though aspects of it have been disproved.
Kunda and Oleson (2001) have also found that members of one group do not generalize the neutral information of an individual in the out-group to members of that same group. In other words, it is the negative aspects of out-group members that are projected, while the neutral as well as the positive features are ignored. Subtyping provides us with another mechanism in the maintenance of stereotypes, as we can see through this model that stereotypes are able to effectively shed aspects which are proven to be inaccurate whilst still maintaining the overall stereotypical view.
Stereotypes are a persistent and persuasive method of social categorisation. Socially we are primed towards engaging in stereotypes (Perdue, Dovidio, Gurtman, Tyler, 1990). In terms of communication we use stereotypes when we perceive that the people we are communicating with hold the same stereotypes and so stereotypes become a type of social lubrication, assisting communication (Karasawa, Asai, & Tanabe, 2007). In this way, communication is also a motivation to not reject the stereotype and process new information.
However, if we consciously allocated more cognitive resources we would reject the stereotype and process new information (Macrae, Milne & Bodenhausen, 1994). Although the mechanisms that underlie the maintenance of stereotypes are intricate and complex, if the puzzle of these mechanisms were to be explained then, although we know that we should avoid stereotypes, we would understand how to. Blair, V. I. , & Banaji, M. (1996). Automatic and controlled processors in stereotype priming. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 1142-1163. Bodenhausen, G.V. (1990).
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