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Understanding Stereotypes for Cognitive Design

As part of my Cognitive Science class this last Spring, I presented an overview of how stereotypes influence human behavior. This topic is especially useful to cognitive designers - a category of designers who regularly incorporate findings from cognitive science to enrich the development of new products and experiences.

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Understanding Stereotypes for Cognitive Design

  1. 1. Stereotypes Allison Leach Cognitive Science November 2012
  2. 2. What is a stereotype? Definition “a socially shared set of beliefs about traits that are characteristic of members of a social category” Origins Derives from the Greek “firm, solid” and “impression”(“solid impression”)
  3. 3. What is a stereotype? • Stereotypes are categories of objects or people. Between stereotypes, objects or people are as different to each other as possible. Within stereotypes, objects or people are as similar to each other as possible.
  4. 4. Theories Old and New • Gordon Allport (1954): assumed stereotypes of outgroups reflected uniform antipathy • Daniel Katz and Kenneth Braly (1933): argued ethnic stereotypes are uniformly negative • New model of stereotypes: suggests stereotypes are frequently ambivalent and vary along 2 dimensions; warmth and competence (Fiske et al. 2002)
  5. 5. Mixed Stereotype Content Model (Fiske et al.)
  6. 6. Stereotype Content Model (SCM) (Fiske et al. 2002)• Intergroup emotions and stereotypes predict distinct behaviors which can be active, passive, facilitative, and harmful
  7. 7. Formation• Socialization and upbringing: although stereotypes can be absorbed at any age, stereotypes are usually acquired in early childhood under the influence of adults• Intergroup relations: stereotypes are shared because group members are motivated to behave in certain ways• Genetic: some evolutionary psychologists believe that xenophobia has genetic roots, so that people will respond positively to similar people and negatively to genetically different people
  8. 8. Cognitive Function• Helps us make sense of the world, a form of categorization which simplifies and systematizes information so that the information is easier to be identified, recalled, predicted, and reacted to.• Time and energy-savers which allow people to act more efficiently: shortcuts to make sense of social contexts that make the world less cognitively demanding
  9. 9. Social Function• Social categorization: stereotypes can be used for explaining social events - often to justify the activities of an ingroup, or to put an ingroup in a positive light by differentiating from the negative traits of an outgroup (ex: anti-Semites and Jews)• Self categorization: stereotypes can emphasize a person’s group membership via depersonalization (ex: adhering to the values of a political party)
  10. 10. How it Works• Automatic activation: Lepore and Brown (1997) describe automatic stereotype activation as the activation of categorically associated “nodes.”• When encountering a category member the group node is activated, and the excitation spreads to other connected nodes. These involuntarily excited nodes are stereotypic characteristics.• Controlled processing: Automatic reactions can be modulated by attention and suppressed, or even planned. Lepore, L., & Brown R. (1997). Category and stereotype activation: Is prejudice inevitable? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72 (2), 275-287.
  11. 11. How it Works• If a person has seen an orange basketball before, they have already placed this object into a basketball category consisting of certain characteristics; it bounces, has a certain texture and groove, is spherical, and is orange. • If he or she then encounters a yellow basketball, that person might be able to still associate it with the category of basketballs based on its texture and shape.
  12. 12. Accurate?• Although many widely-held stereotypes lack empirical support, “it is possible for a stereotype to grow in defiance of evidence” (Gordon Allport, 1954)• Illusory correlations develop incorrect inferences about the relationship between two events• The accuracy of some stereotypes are supported by empirical social science research (Rosenthal 1991)• Ethnic and gender stereotypes about personality and behavior may be more accurate, while stereotypes about political affiliation and nationality may be much less accurate (Jussim 2009)
  13. 13. Effects of Stereotypes • Attributional ambiguity: the uncertainty of stereotyped individuals to interpret the cause of others’ behavior toward them (positive or negative: group or individual merit) • Self-fulfilling prophecy: behavior is which one’s inaccurate expectations about a person’s behavior prompt stereotype- consistent behaviors • Self-stereotyping: specific stereotypes that affect a person’s evaluations of their abilities • Stereotype threat: when people are aware of a negative stereotype about their social group, then experience anxiety that they might confirm the stereotype, undermining performance
  14. 14. Effects of Stereotypes • Discrimination: the judgment of an individual based on the categorical characteristics associated with the target’s social or ethnic group • Appearance bias: such as the Halo Effect - a tendency for positive characteristics to be associated with other positive characteristics (ex: physical attractiveness and goodness)
  16. 16. How it Works Pygmalion EffectA model of the self-fulfillingprophecy at work SUPERVISOR EXPECTANCY PERFORMANCE LEADERSHIP SUBORDINATE MOTIVATION SELF-EXPECTANCY (Eden 1984, Rosenthal 1968)
  17. 17. How it Works Pygmalion EffectA model of the self-fulfillingprophecy at work TEACHER’S EXPECTANCY PERFORMANCE LEADERSHIP STUDENT’S MOTIVATION SELF-EXPECTANCY (Eden 1984, Rosenthal 1968)
  18. 18. Research: IAT • Harvard Universitys Implicit Association Test (Greenwald et al. 1998) allegedly measures and reveals subconscious racial biases+• Participants are shown flashes of pictures of white and black faces, and positive and negative words. They are evaluated on whether they associate different words with certain races_• The more a test-taker tries to not appear biased the more bias shows up in the test results • On average, then, the participants found it much easier to associate the target concept black with the attribute unpleasant than with the attribute pleasant.
  19. 19. Implicit Association Test v
  20. 20. Solutions• Blinding: providing no cues whatsoever as to the social category or stereotype under which the target might fit makes discrimination impossible• Empathy: taking the perspective of outgroup members and “looking at the world through their eyes” can significantly reduce ingroup bias and stereotype accessibility (Galinsky & Moskowitz, 2000• Reorienting beliefs: ex: when black college students were encouraged to think of intelligence as malleable rather than fixed, their grades increased (Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002)• Education: ex: implicit and explicit racial biases were reduced after students took a course on prejudice and conflict (Rudman, Ashmore, & Gary, 2001)• Counter-stereotype imagery: ex: implicit gender stereotypes decline after people spend a few minutes imagining a strong woman (Blair 2002)
  21. 21. Good or Bad?• Advantage: • Disadvantage: enables us to respond makes us ignore rapidly to situations in differences between which we’ve had a individuals, leading similar experience us to think things about people that might not be true
  22. 22. Questions• Considering that stereotypes might have been a positive evolutionary adaptation, are there situations today in which they still play can play a positive role?• Do you believe enough education can eradicate stereotypes - or is even this awareness of their existence doomed to trigger effects like the stereotype threat?• Do you believe stereotypes can be effectively measured?• If stereotypes are automatically activated, how can we design to facilitate or inhibit their occurrence?•
  23. 23. Works ReferencedEden, D. (1988). Pygmalion, Goal Setting, and Expectancy: Compatible Ways to Boost Productivity. The Academy ofManagement Review, 13 (4), 639-652.Fiske, Susan T. (1998). "Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination". In Gilbert, Daniel T.; Fiske, Susan T.; Lindzey,Gardner. The Handbook of Social Psychology. Volume Two (4th ed.). Boston, Mass.:McGraw-Hill. p. 357.ISBN 978-0-19-521376-8.Lepore, L., & Brown R. (1997). Category and stereotype activation: Is prejudice inevitable? Journal of Personality andSocial Psychology, 72 (2), 275-287.Milne, A. B., & Macrae, C. N., & Bodenhausen, G. V., & Thorn, T. M. J., & Castelli, L. (1997). On the activation ofsocial stereotypes: The moderating role of processing objectives. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 33,471-489.Oliner, Adam J. (2000). “The Cognitive Roots of Stereotyping.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology.“The Psychology of Prejudice.” Understanding Prejudice. <www.> (18 November 2012).Kimberly A. Quinn, Harriet E.S. Rosenthal, Categorizing others and the self: How social memory structures guide socialperception and behavior, Learning and Motivation, Volume 43, Issue 4, November 2012, 247-258.Rosenthal, R. (2002). The Pygmalion Effect and Its Mediating Mechanisms. In J. M. Aronson, Improving academicachievement: impact of psychological factors on education, 25-35. Riverside: Emerald Group Publishing.Wikipedia contributors. "Stereotype." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 Nov.2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.