Stereotype Activation and Inhibition

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

the costs are great that we most need to understand how perceivers handle the activation/inhibition problem.

In subsequent work, it will be prudent to examine the extent to which alternative sources of motivation (e.g., internal vs. external) engage different stereotype control processes. It may not be the case that stereotype suppression is the preferred strategy of all those who wish to gain control over the use of stereotypes (see Monteith et al., in press). Moreover, we need to consider whether successful or failed control attempts are isolated events or are part of a process during which the perceiver must learn to regulate the use of his or her cognitive categories (and perhaps manage his or her social world). Does the reason for avoiding the use of stereotypes affect the process? Do people learn from their mistakes as in Monteith's ( 1993) work? Do control efforts lead to feelings of reactance and possibly escalation of prejudice? The bottom-line implication of such questions is that we must develop more formal analyses of the nature of hierarchical control efforts and clear criteria for when control efforts have been successful. We cannot rely exclusively on whether the stereotype has been activated, because most assuredly stereotype activation does not always lead to stereotype use (e.g., Devine, 1989; Gilbert & Hixon, 1991; Monteith, 1993; Spencer, Fein, Wolfe, Hodgson, & Dunn, in press). The distinction between stereotype activation and use and identifying the conditions under which stereotypes may be activated and not used will be important in developing analyses of the regulation of stereotype-related processing.

Let me close by suggesting that I believe the model outlined by Bodenhausen and Macrae represents an important contribution to those interested in the nature of stereotype activation, use, and inhibition. The chapter is thought-provoking and insightful and their model provides key pieces to the stereotype activation and inhibition puzzle. As stated at the outset, my comments are meant to encourage interested researchers to build on their analysis and to flesh out important issues that will help to complete our understanding of how stereotypes function in intergroup perception and behavior. I hope that these comments and observations facilitate the puzzle-building process.


REFERENCES

Devine P. G. ( 1989). "Stereotypes and prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 5-18.

Devine P. G., Evett S. R., & Vasquez-Suson K. A. ( 1996). "The interpersonal dynamics of intergroup contact". In R. Sorrentino & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), The handbook of motivation and cognition: The interpersonal context (Vol. 3, pp. 423-464). New York: Gilford.

Devine P. G., & Monteith M. J. ( 1993). "The role of discrepancy associated affect in prejudice reduction". In D. M. Mackie & D. L. Hamilton (Eds.), Affect, cognition, and stereotyping: Interactive processes in intergroup perception (pp. 317-344). New York: Academic Press.

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