Stereotype Activation and Inhibition

By Robert S. Wyer Jr. | Go to book overview

stereotypic attitudes and behavior. Third, factors that have been shown to produce inhibition effects reliably with one class of stereotypic attitude may not necessarily generalize to other types of stereotypes. In particular, whereas sadness appears to lead people reliably to avoid using their negative stereotypes, in most contexts this is probably less true of positive stereotypes. This shows that "motivation to correct" is not a sufficient condition for stereotype suppression to occur, but that such suppression depends on people's subjective impressions of the stereotype and whether they feel they are justified in using it.

If there is a running theme to be drawn from our chapter, it is that the facilitatory and inhibitory processes guiding the role of stereotypes in information processing do not apply uniformly to all stereotypes. Beginning with Allport ( 1954), most theorists (including Bodenhausen and Macrae; see footnote (1) have acknowledged that stereotypes can refer to positive, as well as negative, belief systems. Yet the vast majority of research is conducted only on negative stereotypes about outgroups. This introduces the possibility of developing theoretical models that, although wellsuited to these types of stereotypes, may not necessarily generalize to other classes of stereotypic beliefs. (See Lambert, 1995, for a related discussion.) As we have shown in this chapter, positive stereotypes "act" quite differently than negative stereotypes, by virtue of the fact that people tend not to perceive them as particularly inappropriate, because of the greater level of internal commitment often associated with these belief systems or both. As a possible solution to this state of affairs, we are not suggesting that theorists develop "minimodels," each of which is meant to apply to one particular type (or class) of stereotypes. One can retain the elegance of a general theoretical model while still making explicit provisions for the different processes that may emerge, depending on what type of stereotype is at work. As researchers seek to build a more complete understanding of how different types of stereotypes guide social thought and behavior in different ways, they will need a strong theoretical foundation from which to launch their efforts. In our opinion, the model presented by Bodenhausen and Macrae provides the most promising example to date of such a conceptualization.


REFERENCES

Alker H. A., & Poppen R. J. ( 1973). Personality and ideology in university students. Journal of Personality, 41, 652-671.

Allport G. W. ( 1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Alterneyer R. ( 1988). Enemies of freedom: Understanding right-wing authoritarianism. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

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