Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Effects of Subliminal Affective Priming on Occupational Gender Stereotypes

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Effects of Subliminal Affective Priming on Occupational Gender Stereotypes

Article excerpt

In order to negotiate the complexities of daily life, people utilize many cognitive shortcuts such as stereotypes (Macrae & Bodenhausen, 2000), which are defined as sets of beliefs about social groups (Rudman, Glick, & Phelan, 2008). Stereotypes are generally believed to be activated in the absence of individuating information whenever an individual encounters, or merely considers, members of stereotyped groups. Occupational gender stereotypes are activated when men and women are considered to be more suited for certain occupations based on stereotyped characteristics and temperaments (White & White, 2006). For example, a stereotypically feminine job would be associated with attributes such as nurturing, caring, and being sensitive to the needs of others, and a stereotypically masculine job would be associated with attributes such as decisiveness, coldness, and toughness (Matheus, 2010).

Affect mediates individuals' reliance on stereotypes. In previous studies researchers have reported that positive affect increases, and negative affect decreases, reliance on stereotypes (Krauth-Gruber & Ric, 2000; Park & Banaji, 2000), but this effect is dependent upon the supraliminal levels of affect.

Supraliminal and subliminal levels of affect differ in that supraliminal affective information is more attention controlled than is subliminal affective information and is processed by cortical pathways, whereas subliminal affective information is more biologically based and is processed by subcortical pathways (Sweeny, Grabowecky, Suzuki, & Paller, 2009). Ric (2004) found that when individuals are not consciously aware of affective information, positive affect (e.g., happiness) deters dependence, and negative affect (e.g., sadness) enhances dependence on explicit stereotypes. This means that effects of subliminal affective priming on stereotypes may be different from, and even the opposite of, the effects of supraliminal affective priming. However, effects of subliminal affective priming lack support from other kinds of stereotyping such as occupational gender stereotypes and age stereotypes. Another issue is that, in traditional studies, researchers have mainly been concerned with the effects of affect on explicit stereotyping, so that research about the effects of affect on implicit stereotyping is, as yet, underdeveloped. Implicit and explicit stereotypes differ in their evaluative processing in that the implicit one is relatively automatic whereas the explicit one is relatively controlled (Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2006). Although Huntsinger, Sinclair, and Clore (2009) explored the influences of affect on implicit stereotypes, it was only the supraliminal level that these researchers examined. Thus, it has not been established whether or not the effects of affective priming on implicit stereotypes are the same as the effects on explicit stereotypes.

It has become increasingly clear that correspondence between implicit and explicit stereotypes is of great significance in implicit social cognition, and the moderators influencing the correspondence are especially significant. Huntsinger and Smith (2009) found that positive affect maintained this correspondence, whereas negative affect degraded it (Huntsinger et al., 2009). Little research has been conducted about the effect of affect on implicit and explicit correspondence, especially at the subliminal level, so that it is uncertain whether or not positive affect also maintains, and negative affect decreases, this correspondence. Our aim in the present research was to examine these effects.

Based on the affect-as-information model (Clore & Huntsinger, 2007) and the associative-propositional evaluation model (Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2006), we hypothesized that, at the subliminal affective priming level, positive affect would decrease, and negative affect would increase, occupational gender stereotypes, and that positive affect would deter, and negative affect would enhance, the correspondence of occupational gender stereotypes. …

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