Stereotype Activation and Inhibition

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

simplicity. In the latter assumption the current model tends to overemphasize the "cognitive miser" approach -- relying entirely on the assumption that stereotyping serves to reduce the amount of information processing required. But stereotyping certainly serves functions other than cognitive parsimony (see Oakes & Turner, 1990; Snyder & Meine, 1993). For instance, if it were assumed that stereotype activation functions at least in some cases to provide accurate knowledge about the target person, it could be argued that it would then be most useful for all relevant categories to be activated in parallel. Because category activation is assumed to be automatic, it should not take much capacity to do so. Such parallel activation would seem particularly useful in cases where the implications of the categories or stereotypes are not mutually inconsistent (see Dijksterhuis& Van Knippenberg, 1996; Stangor & Lange, 1994; Stangor et al., 1991).

The basic processes that form the centerpiece of the model -- activation and inhibition -- are rather low-level constructs. This level of analysis tends to restrict the types of questions that are asked, and the types of variables that seem appropriate to study. Other, also parsimonious, models of stereotyping are available as alternatives. We might, for instance, compare the present approach with Snyder and Meine's ( 1993) functional approach to stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes. In that model, stereotyping is assumed to be based upon a relatively parsimonious set of knowledge functions that account for stereotyping in a dynamic context -- across development and change. This model also proposes that stereotype activation and inhibition can occur, but also attempts to specify the specific motivational variables that produce such effects. Another approach is that proposed by Stangor and Jost ( 1996) that suggests that stereotyping and prejudice are amenable to study at many levels of analysis, including individual, group, and societal levels. Although these alternative models could also of course be critiqued in their own regard, they do provide useful, and potentially more general, alternative conceptualizations of social stereotyping.


REFERENCES

Allport G. W. ( 1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Banaji M. R., & Greenwald A. G. ( 1994). "Implicit stereotyping and prejudice". In M. P. Zanna & J. M. Olson (Eds.), Psychology of prejudice: The Ontario symposium (Vol. 7). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bargh J. A. ( 1990). "Auto-motives: Preconscious determinants of social interaction". In E. T. Higgins , & R. M. Sorrentino (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition (Vol. 2). New York: Guilford.

Bargh J. A. ( 1997). "The automaticity of everyday life". In R. S. Wyer (Ed.), Advances in social cognition (Vol. 10). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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