Stereotypes Have Been Stereotyped: Establishing Personal Beliefs and Stereotypes about Women as Distinct Cognitive Constructs
Lila J. Finney
Past investigations have, to a large extent, operated under the assumption that stereotypes are negative because they represent inaccurate perceptions of stereotyped groups, exaggerate real group differences, lead to unfair treatment of stereotyped groups, ignore individual differences and promote biased perceptions of individuals (see Hilton and Von Hippel, 1996-for review). A growing body of research has began to investigate the accuracy and generalizability of these long held assumptions about stereotypes (Jussim, 1990, 1991). These investigations have resulted in a rather mixed picture concerning the effects of stereotypes on group treatment and evaluation. One widely explored explanation for the inconsistent effects of stereotypes on group evaluation involves the accuracy of the stereotype (Jussim, 1990,1991). Recent investigations have compared various stereotypes with corresponding objective criterion and have demonstrated that a number of stereotypes are accurate (Jussim, 1990).
The accuracy explanation provides some insight into the inconsistent effects of stereotypes on group evaluation. However, this explanation is only valid with regard to accurate stereotypes, it does not explain the inconsistent effects found for stereotypes that have been demonstrated to be inaccurate. Such is the case with gender stereotypes. A number of investigations have repeatedly demonstrated that gender stereotypes are exaggerated and inaccurate (Allen, 1995; Cota, Reid, & Dion, 1991;Martin, 1987). For gender stereotypes the accuracy explanation simply does not apply. Hence, the question regarding the inconsistent effects of stereotypes on subsequent evaluations remains unanswered for gender stereotypes .
The purpose of the present investigation is to explore one possible explanation for past inconsistencies regarding the effects of stereotypes on target group evaluations. This investigation will attempt to demonstrate that individuals stereotypes of women and their personal beliefs about women are distinct cognitive constructs. It is hypothesized that this distinction may account for the differential application of stereotypes in evaluations. Specifically, the hypotheses assert that individuals will demonstrate equal knowledge of a female stereotype, regardless of how sexist they are. It is also hypothesized that individuals associated with a high level of sexism will demonstrate more endorsement of the stereotype in their personal beliefs than individuals with a low level of sexism, even though both groups are expected to demonstrate equal knowledge of the stereotype. The methodology employed in the present investigation follows from Devine and Elliots (1995) research.
In a mass testing session prior to the onset of the present investigation, participants will complete a short form of the Attitudes toward Women Scale (AWS) (Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp, 1973) as an independent measure to assess their degree of sexism toward women. A median split of the obtained AWS scores will be used to determine whether participants will be assigned to either the high- or low- sexism group. Participants in Study One will be involved in a free-response task in which they will be instructed to list the components of the female stereotype as well as their personal beliefs about women. The list of adjectives derived from both the stereotype and personal beliefs free-response tasks will be compiled into one list which will be employed in Study Two.
The purpose of Study Two will be to replicate Study One by employing the list of adjectives obtained from Study One in an adjective checklist task as a measure of participants stereotypes and personal beliefs about women. In addition, participants in Study Two will asked to rate each of the adjectives on their degree of favorability. As in Study One, participants will be assigned to either a low- or high-sexism group based on their scores on the AWS. It is hypothesized that individuals both high and low in sexism will demonstrate equal knowledge of a negative and consistent female stereotype. Further, it is hypothesized that individuals in the high-sexism group will demonstrate endorsement of the negative stereotype in their personal beliefs while individuals low in sexism will not.
Obtaining the hypothesized pattern of results would provide evidence that stereotypes and personal beliefs about women are distinct cognitive constructs which operate independently in evaluative processes. Such a finding would pave the way for future research to examine the various moderating variables which may potentially override the role of stereotypes in evaluation.
For more information regarding this
project you may contact Lila Finney,
129 Benton Hall, 529-2447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allen, B. (1995). Gender stereotypes are not accurate: A replication of Martin (1987) using diagnostic vs self-report and behavioral criterion. Sex Roles, 32, 583-600.
Cota, A. A., Reid, A. & Dion, K. L. (1991). Construct validity of a diagnostic ratio measure of gender stereotypes. Sex Roles, 25, 225-235.
Devine, P. G., & Elliot, A. J. (1995). Are racial stereotypes really fading? The Princeton trilogy revisited. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 1139-1150.
Hilton, J. L., & Von Hippel, W. (1996). Stereotypes. Annual Review of Psychology, 47, 237-271.
Jussim, L. (1990). Social reality and social problems: The role of expectancies. Journal of Social Issues, 46, 9-34.
Jussim, L. (1991). Social perception and social reality: A reflection-construction model. Psychological Review, 98, 54-73.
Martin, C. L. (1987). A ratio measure of sex stereotyping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 489-499.
Spence, J. T., Helmreich, R., & Stapp, J. (1973). A short version of the Attitudes toward Women Scale (AWS). Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 2, 219-220.
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