Beyond the Isolated Social Perceiver: Why Inhibit Stereotoypes?
Patricia G. Devine University of Wisconsin-Madison
Questions concerning stereotype activation and use have consumed the attention of a great many researchers in contemporary social psychology. And with good reason; the unchecked use of stereotypes can lead to pernicious effects for those who are the targets of the stereotypes. Indeed, stereotypes are often implicated in discriminatory actions on the part of majority group members and have been suggested to be at least partly responsible for undermining the performance of minority group members, such as Blacks and women in important academic settings (e.g., Steele, 1997; Steele & Aronson, 1995). Some have argued that because stereotypes are part of our cultural landscape and are often adaptive in social perception, their use can hardly be avoided ( Fox, 1992). Few topics have received as much theoretical and empirical attention in contemporary social psychology as the advantages and disadvantages of social stereotype use. Developing clear analyses of the processes underlying stereotype activation and inhibition would therefore presumably hold the keys to helping people develop control over the use of social stereotypes.
Unraveling the processes underlying stereotype activation and inhibition can be thought of like putting a jigsaw puzzle together (as can all research programs). However, unlike (most) jigsaw puzzles that come in a