Stereotypes and Person Perception

Lee Jussim

in Social Perception and Social Reality

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780195366600
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933044 | DOI:
Stereotypes and Person Perception

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This chapter examines the role of stereotypes in enhancing or reducing the accuracy of person perception. It points out that relying on an inaccurate stereotype will usually reduce accuracy of person perception and this may help explain why many social scientists seem to assume that any influence of a stereotype on person perception is something bad and biased that leads people astray. However, as Chapter 17 showed, stereotype accuracy is one of the largest effects in social psychology. This raises the question: Will relying on accurate stereotypes enhance or reduce the accuracy of person perception? This chapter’s answer is: It depends. The chapter identifies three different situations on which the answer depends: When people have vividly clear, credible, relevant individuating information, they usually (though not always) should rely on it and ignore their stereotypes; when people have ambiguous or only partially informative individuating information, they should rely on both their (accurate) stereotype and the individuating information; and when people have no individuating information, relying on their (accurate) stereotype will maximize the accuracy of their person perception predictions. The scientific evidence is then reviewed, and, perhaps shockingly, it shows that how people integrate stereotypes and individuating information to arrive at person perception judgments approximately corresponds to what they should do to be as rational and accurate as possible. The chapter ends by introducing the Stereotype Rationality Hypothesis, which suggests that laypeople largely (though not perfectly) rely on stereotypes when doing so is most likely to lead to accurate predictions and inferences, and they readily prefer relevant individuating information when it is most likely to lead to accurate predictions and inferences.

Keywords: stereotypes; accuracy; stereotype accuracy; person perception; social perception; rationality; individuating information; stereotype bias

Chapter.  16071 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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