Stereotype Activation and Inhibition

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

it would be necessary to implement an intermediate step, especially given that it is apparently quite counterproductive (leading to rebound effects whenever it is disrupted).

This is not to say that cognitive inhibition and behavioral inhibition do not both occur and are not both functional in some circumstances. However, it may be more useful to differentiate between the two mechanisms based on the requirement that each one is intended to fulfill. Specifically, it may be that cognitive inhibition, or suppression, is practiced in order to achieve goals derived from personal standards against stereotyping. That is, maintaining a state of mind that is free of stereotypic thoughts is ultimately a personal goal, and one that is likely best achieved through thought suppression. In contrast, preventing oneself from behaving in stereotypic ways, although also an important goal for unprejudiced individuals, is more likely to serve social goals of behaving in appropriate ways or of not offending those who hold egalitarian values (regardless of whether the perceiver holds those values). Thus, behavioral inhibition may well be practiced in the absence of cognitive inhibition by those who personally endorse stereotypic views but who wish to interact effectively with others who do not.


CONCLUSION

Bodenhausen and Macrae have proposed a model that will likely allow social psychologists to specify with greater confidence the circumstances in which stereotype activation will result in stereotype use. Their analysis provides an important contribution both in its theoretical sophistication and in the new avenues for research investigation that it opens. Although some details of the model have yet to be thoroughly explored, it makes a number of novel contributions to our understanding of the various processes involved in stereotyping, a topic that continues to intrigue social psychologists and the general public alike.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Preparation of this chapter was supported in part by NIMH Grant 40058.


REFERENCES

Bargh J. A. ( 1989). "Conditional automaticity: Varieties of automatic influence in social perception and cognition". In J. S. Uleman & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), Unintended thought (pp. 3-51). New York: Guilford.

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