This book developed from a series of interactions between social psychologists at the Australian National University, the Catholic University at Louvain-la-Neuve and the University of Amsterdam. In fact, all of the contributors to the current volume were doing research at one or other of those institutions during the 1990s.
All of the contributors to the volume were motivated by a desire to get beyond some of the ideas about stereotyping that had so dominated work in the 1970s and 1980s and were showing remarkable powers of recovery in the 1990s. In doing this work several of us saw that despite differences in theoretical perspectives and/or our geographical location there were common threads in our work.
Many of the common ideas related to a view of stereotype formation as a search for meaning on the part of the perceiver. We used different terms for this search for meaning, such as explanation, understanding, deriving differentiated meaning, but the commonalities in what we were doing were obvious to us. The key ideas were consistent with the classic work of Bruner and had figured prominently in social psychology in work inspired by self-categorization theory and by social judgeability theory, which made the point about the link between stereotyping and meaning in a more general way.
It was perhaps in the domain of stereotype formation that the idea of sense-making had the most to offer. Stereotype formation seemed to be covered in every introductory social psychology textbook, but work in the field had very little to say about why stereotypes were formed, except under quite unusual (albeit interesting) circumstances. In our different ways, we have sought to apply the idea that people form stereotypes in order to make sense of their world, and this book is really a progress report on what we have discovered so far.
Many of our colleagues are contributors to this volume and their contributions will be readily apparent as you read this book. As editors we extend our sincere thanks to all of them, in their different ways they have all taught us a lot about stereotype formation. However, we would