The Psychology of Stereotyping

By David J. Schneider | Go to book overview
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Content of Stereotypes:
Gender, Race, and Age

Up to this point, I have followed contemporary practice and focused attention on general principles of how stereotypes affect processing of information about individuals and groups. Yet most people imagine that we social psychologists are in the business of documenting the content of various stereotypes. When I tell nonpsychologists that I study stereotyping, after the obligatory comment about how interesting that must be, they often ask me a question about some particular stereotype—for instance, "You know, I've often wondered why people think that lawyers are so mercenary." Or perhaps they will say something about how only prejudiced people have stereotypes. Or they may question me gingerly about some favorite stereotype of theirs being true: "I don't know why Mexicans get so angry when we say they are inclined to commit crimes. All you have to do is watch TV and see for yourself how many crimes they commit."


So far we have had little to say about the specific content of stereotypes. What do people think differentiates men from women? What is the stereotype of persons with mental illness? Are obese individuals seen to be lazy, and if so, why? If these questions seem appropriate, even interesting, why have we waited for 10 chapters to get to them?

The Social Cognition Approach

Modern social cognition, the area that has most influenced current research on stereotyping, focuses on processing concerns and pays little attention to the content that comes along for the ride (Schneider, 1991, 1996). After all, memory processes


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