Are Racial Stereotypes Really Fading?
The Princeton Trilogy Revisited

Patricia G. Devine & Andrew J. Elliot
Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 1995, 21(11),
1139-1150

Critical Analysis #1
by
Lila J. Finney
Miami University
 


Devine and Elliot's (1995) study, Are Racial Stereotypes Really Fading? The Princeton Trilogy Revisited , offers an enlightening critique of three previous studies of racial stereotypes commonly referred to as the Princeton Trilogy. In the three studies (Katz & Braley, 1933; Gilbert, 1951; Karlins, Coffman, & Walters, 1969) the researchers professed to identify and measure racial stereotypes and concluded that the consistency and negativity of stereotypes of Blacks had declined over the years since the first study was conducted in 1933. Devine and Elliot (1995) discussed possible shortcomings of the trilogy, focusing on the ambiguity of the instructions given to subjects, the lack of an assessment of subjects' racial prejudice, and the use of an outdated adjective list.

Specifically, Devine and Elliot (1995) asserted that the ambiguous instructions given in the Princeton Trilogy studies, which failed to clarify a distinction between stereotypes about Blacks and personal beliefs about Blacks, may have led respondents to report either their knowledge of stereotypes or their personal beliefs. Devine and Elliot (1995) suggested that due to the ambiguous nature of the instructions, it is difficult to discern exactly what the respondents in the Trilogy were reporting and, in turn, it is difficult to draw any conclusions from their reports. Further, Devine and Elliot (1995) asserted that the adjective checklist developed in the original study and subsequently employed in the second and third studies in the Trilogy, may have become outdated; that is, in the second and third studies the checklist may have failed to include contemporary adjectives which may have limited the respondents' choices of adjectives leading to an inaccurate assessment of the content of their stereotypes. Finally, Devine and Elliot (1995) expressed the importance of obtaining an independent measure of the respondents' racial prejudice. Devine and Elliot (1995) argued that the inclusion of a separate measure of racial prejudice was prerequisite to obtaining a more precise understanding of the respondents' portrayal of Black Americans.

The purpose of Devine and Elliot's investigation was to assess contemporary stereotypes of blacks and to examine the respondents' personal beliefs about Blacks. Devine and Elliot (1995) attempted to make this assessment by replicating the previous studies in light of their critique by making the following changes: 1) providing subjects with clear and precise instructions which made salient the distinction between knowledge of a cultural stereotype and personal beliefs, 2) taking a separate measure of the subjects' racial prejudice and 3) updating the adjective checklist to include more current descriptors of a Black stereotype.

With the inclusion of the previously cited changes, Devine and Elliot (1995) employed the same methodology used in the Princeton Trilogy (Katz & Braley, 1933; Gilbert, 1951; Karlins, Coffman, & Walters, 1969). Respondents completed a stereotype questionnaire in which they were instructed to check items that they felt reflected the stereotype about Blacks - not their personal beliefs. Second, respondents completed a personal belief assessment in which they were instructed to check adjectives that reflected their personal beliefs about Blacks. Subjects were given an adjective checklist identical to those used in previous studies other than the inclusion of 9 additional adjectives derived from a previous study conducted by Devine (1989). In Devine's (1989) previous study she conducted a free-response task asking subjects to list adjectives representative of the Black stereotype which revealed frequent and consistent use of the 9 adjectives added to the checklist. Finally, subjects completed a 7-item version of the Modern Racism Scale to assess their level of racial prejudice toward Blacks.

Results of Devine and Elliot's (1995) investigation indicated that 6 of the 10 most frequently cited adjectives were adjectives that Devine and Elliot (1995) added to the list, confirming their critique of the use of an outdated checklist in previous studies. Further, although the 2nd and 3rd studies in the Trilogy pointed to a decrease in the consistency of the Black stereotype over the years, Devine and Elliot's (1995) study demonstrated that the uniformity index in their study was almost exactly the same as it was in 1933. That is the consistency of the stereotype measured in Devine and Elliot's (1995) study was almost identical to the consistency of the stereotype measured by Katz and Braly (1993). This finding suggested that although the content of the Black stereotype had changed over the years, there still remained a coherent and consistent Black stereotype. Further, this finding suggested that due to the aforementioned shortcoming of the ambiguity of the instructions given to the respondents, the investigations in the Princeton Trilogy were not tapping into subjects stereotypes of Blacks, but rather their personal beliefs about Blacks. Devine and Elliot (1995) adopted this interpretation of the previous studies as measuring personal beliefs about Blacks rather than knowledge of stereotypes, which afforded a comparison of personal beliefs about Blacks between their study and the three studies included in the Princeton Trilogy (Katz & Braley, 1933; Gilbert, 1951; Karlins, Coffman, & Walters, 1969). Comparison of the personal beliefs results in Devine and Elliot's (1995) study and the results of the Princeton Trilogy, indicated an increase in favorable personal beliefs about Blacks over the years.

Devine and Elliot (1995) also examined subjects' knowledge of stereotypes and personal beliefs in light of their membership to either a low- or high-prejudice group. The obtained results confirmed the hypothesis that subjects in the high- and low- group would demonstrate equal knowledge of a Black stereotype while diverging in the degree to which they endorsed such beliefs, with high-prejudice endorsing the stereotype much more than the low.

Devine and Elliot's (1995) investigation brings to light many important considerations that must be taken into account in order to conduct meaningful and concise research in the area of stereotypes. Specifically, Devine (1989) demonstrated that stereotypes and personal beliefs are distinct cognitive structures which represent distinct components of individuals' knowledge of various groups. Further, Devine and Elliot (1995) demonstrated that the content of stereotypes may change over the years and in order to accurately assess stereotypes subjects' responses should not be limited by outdated adjective checklists. Finally, Devine and Elliot (1995) revealed that both high- and low-prejudice individuals demonstrate equal knowledge of a stereotype. These findings simultaneously provide an invaluable prescription for further investigations into stereotypes as well as a means for assessing previously conducted research. Specifically, the methodology employed by Devine and Elliot (1995) provides a fruitful avenue for exploring stereotypes and the potential moderating variables which may play a pivotal role in determining whether or not knowledge of the stereotype leads to beliefs in accordance with the stereotype.

References

Devine, P. G. (1989). Stereotypes and prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 5-18.

Devine, P. G., & Elliot, A. J. (1995). Are racial stereotypes really fading? The Princeton trilogy revisited. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 11, 1139-1150.

Gilbert, G. M. (1951). Stereotype persistence and change among college students. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 245-254.

Karlins, M., Coffman, T. L., & Walters, G. (1969). On the fading of social stereotypes: Studies in three generations of college students. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 1-16.

Katz, D., & Braly, K. (1933). Racial stereotypes of one hundred college students. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 28, 280-290.


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Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA) Last revised: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 17:06:37 . This document has been accessed 3,438 times since September 30, 1996. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman