Cognitive Social Psychology: The Princeton Symposium on the Legacy and Future of Social Cognition

By Gordon B. Moskowitz | Go to book overview

10
From Cognition to Culture: The Origins of Stereotypes That Really Matter
Mark Schaller Lucian Gideon Conway, III
University of British Columbia

Stereotypes matter because they have consequences.

Stereotypes matter because they have specific consequences. The specific consequences result from the particular contents of those stereotypes. If you believe that folks from the American South are fond of a good slab of barbecued meat, then you may be more likely to serve smoked pork shoulder when you have your new Alabama-born co-worker Billy over for a welcoming dinner, but this particular stereotype of Southerners is not likely to make you reconsider the rest of your guest list. Alternatively, if you believe that Southerners are racist bigots, then this stereotype probably will not influence the menu, but may make you decide not to invite the Nwazuruokeh's from next door to join you as well.

Stereotypes matter because they have general consequences. The general consequences result from the fact that stereotypes are, to some degree, shared. If you are the only person who believes Southerners to be barbecue lovers or racist bigots, then the consequences of this stereotype would be minimal indeed, affecting the lives of no one but you and the Southerners whom you encounter. You might insensitively invite a finicky vegetarian over for a rack of ribs, or your coworker Billy might miss the opportunity to meet your Nigerian neighbors, but these incidents hardly comprise a social problem. However, when these stereotypic beliefs are shared by many, then the consequences of the stereotype are broad, affecting the actions of all those who hold the stereotype and the lives of the much larger set of Southerners that these many individuals encounter.

None of this is news to anyone who has either a personal or professional interest in stereotypes. In commenting on several stereotypes that have historically mattered—such as stereotypes of Jews—Haslam (1997, p. 119) noted that “the stereotypes became potent because, within the groups who held them, they came to reflect and express a particular world view which dictated that group's collective behavior towards particular targets of oppression.” But, although social scientists may readily acknowledge why stereotypes matter, we do not know very much about how those stereotypes that matter come to be what they are. If we wanted to predict which exact traits and characteristics would be central to a shared stereotype of some group, we would find that the existing social-psychological literature offers only a rough set of rules on which to offer a prediction.

One challenge for the future, then, is this: We need to nourish a scientific literature that more completely offers explanations for the origins of stereotypes that really matter. How do emerging, shared stereotypes arise that have the specific contents that they do, rather than some other contents? Through what processes can we understand and predict how some individual cognitions rather than others become socially shared cultural structures?


WHAT WE KNOW

Prior to the cognitive revolution in social psychology, content and consensus were the explicit foci of many studies of group stereotypes. Consider the well-known “Princeton trilogy” of studies examining ethnic stereotypes (Gilbert, 1951; Katz & Braly, 1933; Karlins, Coffman, & Waters, 1969). The questions these studies addressed were explicitly: “What are the contents of stereotypes about various ethnic groups?” and “How much consensus is there in the perception of these stereotypes?” However, just as these research questions revealed the focus on stereotypes that really mattered, the results also reveal the limitations of the accompanying sociometric methods: The studies were descriptive, not explanatory. However impressively they described the content and consensus of ethnic stereotypes, the results offer nothing by way of explanation. Why these particular contents and not others? Why are these contents consensually shared?

To answer questions such as these, it is necessary that stereotypes be defined at the individual level of analysis. Within contemporary psychological frame

-163-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Cognitive Social Psychology: The Princeton Symposium on the Legacy and Future of Social Cognition
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 503

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.