and Implicit Personality Theories
In Chapter 4, I have discussed the ways stereotypes help us process information about others, and some of the resulting biases. In the present chapter, I try (somewhat gingerly, to be sure) to look inside the engine of stereotypes—to examine their structure. There are many ways to approach this, but one way is to use a timehonored idea from person perception: implicit personality theories.
The term "implicit personality theory" was coined by Bruner and Taguiri (1954) to refer to a network of perceived relationships among traits and other person information, such as roles, behaviors, and values. There is abundant evidence (Rosenberg & Sedlak, 1972; Schneider, 1973) that people readily infer that certain traits "go together." For example, the average person probably thinks that kind people are warm, that stupidity implies ignorance, that hostile people are unhappy, that short people are insecure, and that financially successful people are happy. Thus there is nothing necessarily elaborate about implicit personality theories. They are simply networks of perceived relationships among features within a given domain.
At first glance it may seem that networks of trait relationships have little to do with stereotypes, but slightly broadening the conception of implicit personality theories makes it clear that stereotypes can actually be seen quite easily in this framework. Several authors (e.g., Ashmore, 1981; Ashmore & Del Boca, 1979; Jones, 1977; Schneider, Hastorf, & Ellsworth, 1979) have argued that stereotypes are similar to implicit personality theories, but the specific similarities have not always been spelled out carefully.