Article

Prejudice and Stereotyping

Theresa Vescio and Kevin Weaver

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online March 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0097
Prejudice and Stereotyping

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  • Cognitive Psychology
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  • Educational Psychology
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Prejudice and stereotyping are biases that work together to create and maintain social inequality. Prejudice refers to the attitudes and feelings—whether positive or negative and whether conscious or non-conscious—that people have about members of other groups. In contrast, stereotypes have traditionally been defined as specific beliefs about a group, such as descriptions of what members of a particular group look like, how they behave, or their abilities. As such, stereotypes are cognitive representations of how members of a group are similar to one another and different from members of other groups. Importantly, people can be aware of cultural stereotypes and have cognitive representations of those beliefs without personally endorsing such stereotypes, without feelings of prejudice, and without awareness that such stereotypes could affect one’s judgment and behavior. Prejudice and stereotyping are generally considered to be the product of adaptive processes that simplify an otherwise complex world so that people can devote more cognitive resources to other tasks. However, despite any cognitively adaptive function they may serve, using these mental shortcuts when making decisions about other individuals can have serious negative ramifications. The horrible mistreatment of particular groups of people in recent history, such as that of Jews, African Americans, women, and homosexuals, has been the major impetus for the study of prejudice and stereotyping. Thus, the original conceptions and experiments were concerned almost entirely with conscious, negative attitudes and explicitly discriminatory actions. However, as the social acceptability of prejudice and stereotypes has changed, the manifestations of prejudice and stereotypes have also changed. In response to these changes, and given that people who reject prejudice and stereotyping can still unwittingly internalize stereotypic representations, the study of prejudice and stereotyping has recently moved to include beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that could be considered positive and not obviously or overtly prejudiced. Importantly, even when prejudice and stereotypes are ostensibly positive (e.g., traditional women are wonderful and adored), they preserve the dominance of powerful groups: they not only limit the opportunities of stereotyped groups but also produce a litany of negative outcomes when those group members defy them. Because of these new conceptions of bias, there have also been methodological adaptations in the study of prejudice and stereotyping that move beyond the conscious attitudes and behaviors of individuals to measure their implicit prejudice and stereotypes as well. This article gives a quick tour through the social psychological study of prejudice and stereotyping to inform the reader about its theoretical background, measurement, and interventions aimed to reduce prejudice.

Article.  8440 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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