Stereotype Activation and Inhibition

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

13
The Balance Between Excitation and Inhibition in Stereotype Use

Natalie A. Wyer David L. Hamilton University of California, Santa Barbara

The cognitive emphasis that has predominated in social psychology during the last 20 years has given rise to important changes in the nature of stereotyping research (cf. Fiske, in press; Hamilton & Sherman, 1994; Hamilton, Stroessner, & Driscoll, 1994). An important theme in this work has been the prevalence of what may be called excitatory mechanisms; that is, processes that derive from stereotype activation and that drive cognitive processing in ways concordant with the stereotype that has been activated. In almost all cases, the consequences of stereotype activation appear to be to maintain the status quo and to reinforce the stereotype whose activation was the basis for that biased processing. Thus, category activation leads us to attend to aspects of stimulus information that fit with the activated concept, to interpret ambiguous information in ways consistent with the stereotype of the activated category, and to infer additional characteristics of the stimulus that fit with (and in fact are derived from) the stereotype. Moreover, stereotype activation can influence behavioral interactions in self-fulfilling ways, leading to the appearance of stereotype validation for the perceiver. Given this variety of consequences that derive from stereotype activation, it is not surprising that stereotypes remain persistent even

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