Ingroups and Outgroups
Up to this point, I have emphasized purely cognitive approaches to stereotypes and stereotyping. I need make no apology for this emphasis—after all, whatever else they may be, stereotypes are products of our cognitive activity. But it is time to recognize an insistent reality: Stereotypes are also social products. There are three important points to make in this regard.
Obviously, stereotypes are products of cultures, but this vague statement leaves open issues of what the relationship of culture and stereotypes is. Social scientists have generally assumed that our culture serves up the content of our stereotypes, and that we as individuals digest cultural lessons whole. But cultures also dictate, to some extent, what social categories and groups are recipients of these stereotypes. It is surely no accident that Americans are more likely to stereotype African Americans than German Americans, or that the French have stronger stereotypes of Algerians than of the Dutch. We stereotype redheads and blonds, but not those with brown hair. Americans have stronger age-related stereotypes than most countries, but tend to mute those based on religion, whereas in other countries it is the reverse. The impact of cultural, social, and historical forces on stereotyping is discussed in Chapter 9.
Some of our stereotypes are fiercely held and accompanied by strong feelings, whereas others seem devoid of emotion. I happen to think that basset hounds are ugly and stupid, but I would not be prepared to enter into long and passionate debate with a basset hound owner about my stereotype. However, my stereotypes about Texas and Houston have a warmer emotional temperature, and stereotypes about my university and profession seem downright hot.