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Formation of Stereotypes

SAQ: Explain the formation of stereotypes making use of one study.

SAQ: Explain the formation of stereotypes and their effect on behaviour.

  • Introduce the idea of stereotypes 
    • Our social world is very complex and thus presents us with too much information.
    • Since our capacity to process information is limited, our social world needs to be simplified. 
    • One way to avoid this information overload is through social categorisation.
    • The information is used in social categorisation is stereotypes. 

  • Define Stereotypes 
    • A "stereotype" is a mental representation and a form of social categorization made about specific individuals or a group and its members.
    • Once a set of characteristics is used to describe a group of people, those characteristics are often attributed to all members of the group, thus affecting the behaviour of the people or individual who hold the stereotype, and those who are labelled by a stereotype. 
    • Gender, race, political stance, and personality contribute to the stereotypes we place on others, but they are generally based on race and gender. 

  • Give example, in terms of (+) & (-) stereotypes 
    • This generalization may either be positive or negative, based on certain group membership or physical attributes, however most stereotypes of today are negative, exaggerating the quality and cognitively-associating such trait to all individuals that are part of the group leading to discrimination and prejudice, thus increasing self-esteem about themselves and their in-group. 
    • However, some positive stereotypes may exist
  • Stereotypes are similar to schemas
    • Stereotypes are now also argued to be a schema process that conditions those who hold the stereotype and also those labelled after the stereotype, as they are organized internal representations of individuals and or groups, therefore guiding how people act towards them.
  • Introduce theories of stereotype formation 
    • There are several theories on the development of stereotypes, including social categorization grain of truth hypothesis, and illusory correlation. 

  • Old Theory – Social Categorization & Social Identity Theory 
    • Earlier on, Tajfel (1971) argued that stereotypes developed through a natural process of social categorization, which is when people categorize groups of people based on common traits or characteristics.
    • However, this does not explain how it actually happens. 

  • Introduce stereotype threat, as a result of categorization 
    • Through categorization and by being part of thoughts resistant to change, stereotypes have a tremendous potential to affect a certain group"s behaviour negatively, which can be explained by stereotype threat.
    • Stereotype threat occurs when one is in a situation where there is a threat of being judged or treated stereotypically, or a fear of doing something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype. 
    • Steele (1997) claims that the stereotypes" of prejudice is the cause of spotlight anxiety, an emotional stress that inhibits a stereotype-targeted individual"s performance. 
Supporting Study 1: Aronson and Steele (1995)
  • Aim: 
    • To investigate the effect of stereotype threat on performance in a test.
  • Method: 
    • Gave a 30 minute verbal test to African American and European-American participants. 
    • Tested two groups of the participants and told one group that it was an articulation test whilst the other group was told it was a laboratory task. 

  • Findings: 
    • African Americans scored lower than the European Americans when they were told it was an articulation test but when told it was a laboratory test the African Americans scored higher than the European Americans. 

  • Conclusion: 
    • Shows that stereotype threat can affect an individual"s performance in a task. 
Key Terms 
Grain of truth hypothesis
  • Supporting Researcher 2: Campbell (1967) 
    • Campbell (1967) states that there are two keys to stereotypes and are formed through, 
        • personal experiences with the groups and people we stereotype 
        • gate keepers (parents, media, other members of our culture) 
    • This is what forms his grain of truth hypothesis, in which he argued that experiences are generalized and passed on to groups, as a result of an experience shared with an individual of the group or stereotype that are categorized to.
    • However, this theory has been criticized, since errors in attribution are common.
Illusory Correlation (Social Cognitive Theory) 
  • Hamilton and Gifford (1976) argued instead that stereotypes formed through a type of cognitive bias, “a person"s tendency to make errors in judgement based on cognitive factors,” which is known as illusory correlation. 
Cognitive bias
  • After illusory correlations are formed, people actively seek to confirm and support their beliefs by looking for evidence in a "biased" way, which is known as confirmation bias.
  • Illusory correlation comes in many forms such as culturally based prejudice about social groups. Cognitive bias may cause us to reinforce previously developed stereotypes 
  • Therefore making this bias, “stereotypical thinking resistant to change.” 
  • These studies show the formation of stereotypes according to the social cognitive theory, social categorization, grain of truth hypothesis and illusory correlation. 
  • Shows how stereotypes simplify our social world and how as the studies demonstrate, stereotypes are widely held to evaluate generalise a group of people. 
  • Stereotypes may lead to discrimination and prejudice and affect the behaviour of those who create the stereotype and also those who are stereotyped. 
  • From this, it can be concluded that stereotypes most often negatively affect our behaviour; however more research has to be made in order to investigate how stereotypes are formed and how they affect behaviour. 
SAQ SAMPLE - Describe one theory of how stereotypes are formed
    "One theory that explains how stereotypes are formed is through either experience or society and then confirmation bias. Stereotypes are schema that people have of other people. These usually form from experiencing a certain event multiple times or from what society tells you to think. One study on the formation of stereotypes was done by Rogers & Frantz. They are aimed to see if the amount of time that somebody was in Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) would affect their stereotypes of the locals. They studied European settlers in Rhodesia. They gave participants a test where multiple segregation and discrimination laws were listed, showing how much better the whites were treated in Rhodesia than the blacks. They then asked them how much they wanted things to either stay the same or change. The results were that the longer somebody had lived in Rhodesia, the less they wanted things to change and the more they liked the status quo. This shows that the longer someone had been living there, the higher amount of the stereotypes he had towards the locals.
    Those that wanted the change the most were the ones that had been there the least amount of time. This indicates that stereotypes form over time. When new European settlers came to Rhodesia they had no idea what to think and had no stereotypes toward the Africans. Because of this, they looked to others to see what to think. This is called informational social influence. They conformed to the ideas and stereotypes already existing in the White European community. The[y] did this in order to connect to their "in-group." Once learning these stereotypes, they then experience confirmation bias. This is when they only see and remember things that fit into the stereotype or schema that they now had of the locals and ignored the things that went against these stereotypes. This is how their stereotypes got stronger. One theory of the formation of stereotypes is that people look to others they consider their in-group to see what to think. Then through confirmation bias these stereotypes increase in intensity. The more time the Europeans had been in Rhodesia, the more they felt ok with discrimination against the locals and the stronger their stereotypes were." 

Examiner's Response
A very clear description of the process by which stereotypes may be formed. Food reference to a study to support claims. 8 marks.