Stereotype Activation and Inhibition

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

an easy basis for judging similarity and, hence, allowing them to respond relatively quickly. However, what is most relevant to the notion of hierarchical control is the finding regarding the motivation variable. The analysis revealed that those participants who were relatively motivated to control prejudiced reactions were significantly slower to respond. Thus, they seem to have found it necessary to exert some time-consuming effort to counter having had their attention drawn to race. This finding suggests that the motivation to control seemingly prejudiced reactions prompted a controlled process involving a search for alternative bases for judging similarity. In fact, these highly motivated individuals relied on the two dimensions associated with occupation to a significantly greater degree than did the participants less concerned with controlling seemingly prejudiced reactions.


CONCLUSION

The research I have summarized provides additional support for Bodenhausen and Macrae's theoretical model of stereotyping processes. The research highlights the variability that can exist with respect to the outcome of the initial categorization process, which occupies a critical role in the model. When they encounter a target person who is categorizable in multiple ways, people do not necessarily "see" the same person. Yet, how the target is categorized will determine what stereotypes, attitudes, and expectations are activated and, ultimately, influence judgment and behavior. However, such influence is not inevitable in that controlled, motivational processes can counter its effects -- provided that the perceiver has the opportunity and resources to engage in such effortful control (see Fazio, 1990; Fazio & Towles-Schwen, in press, for a discussion of the roles of motivation and opportunity). Bodenhausen and Macrae's model provides a valuable integration of the various processes that determine whether stereotypes will influence judgments and behavior, as well as when and how they do so.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Preparation of this commentary, as well as the research summarized within it, was supported by Research Scientist Development Award MH00452 and Grant MH38832 from the National Institute of Mental Health.

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