Stereotype Activation and Inhibition

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

operate quite independently of the other, our intuition is that frequently these two inhibitory tactics will function in tandem to prevent perceivers from stereotyping others. Considerable evidence points to this conclusion. As Wegner's ( 1994) research has revealed on numerous occasions, people believe that the road to behavioral mastery resides in the ability to control their minds. By not thinking about cookies, one can resist the temptation of eating them; by not thinking about frozen margaritas, one can avoid the temptation of drinking them; and by not thinking about stereotypes, one can avoid the temptation of expressing them. Thought suppression, in other words, facilitates behavioral inhibition. A similar conclusion is furnished by Mischel et al. ( 1989) on the basis of their research on children's ability to delay gratification. They observed that children who engaged in cognitive inhibition (e.g., thinking distracting thoughts, singing to themselves) were better able to withhold a behavioral response than their counterparts who did not engage in such activities. Thus, cognitive inhibition is a tactic that can foster successful behavioral control.


CONCLUSION

Recent years have witnessed a surge of interest in the questions of how, why, and when stereotypes influence people's evaluations of others ( Brewer, 1988; Fiske & Neuberg, 1990; Hamilton & Sherman, 1994). In the present chapter we have focused particular attention on the related issue of how fundamental components of stereotyping are modulated by major classes of facilitatory and dampening influences. In so doing, we have presented a theoretical framework that implicates both lateral inhibitory mechanisms and processes of hierarchical control in the regulation of stereotyping. As a preliminary step to delineating how perceivers may control aspects of the stereotyping process, the present framework is revealing. What remains clear, however, is that inhibitory mechanisms will occupy a prominent position in social-cognitive investigations of person perception in the years ahead. It is with considerable enthusiasm that we anticipate the appearance of this work.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT

We are very grateful to Bob Wyer for numerous valuable suggestions.

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