Recalling Information Consistent with the Cold War Schema
Lippmann ( 1922) suggested long ago that stereotypes are self-confirming and resistant to refutation because they are used in processing the very information that is used to evaluate and validate them. More recently, a number of studies ( Snyder & Uranowitz, 1978; Rothbart, Evans, & Fulero, 1979; Snyder, 1981) have shown that subjects tend to remember stereotype-consistent information more than stereotype-inconsistent information. These findings have been interpreted as support for Lippmann's claim, since information that reinforces the stereotype is retained while potentially refuting information is lost. The experiment discussed in this chapter tests whether the cold war schema, through its effect on recall of relevant information, serves to confirm itself and resist potential refutation.
Events do not always fit preconceptions, and events have not always fit neatly into the cold war schema. For example, U.S. intervention in pre-Pinochet Chile, while perhaps anticommunist, encouraged the undermining and overthrow of Chilean democracy. U.S. behavior was inconsistent with the schema-based notion that the United States supports democracy. Has information about events that have been inconsistent with the cold war schema been paid attention to, remembered, and taken seriously in the same way that consistent information has? If not, then the cold war schema may have served to maintain its cultural predominance by filtering out information that has not fit it, making it difficult for schema users to test the validity of their preconceptions.
The experiment presented in this chapter tests recall of information that is consistent or inconsistent with the cold war schema. Findings demonstrate tendencies to ignore, distort, or discount information inconsistent with the cold war