Stereotypes

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To adequately investigate the question as to whether stereotypes are the psychological lubricant on intergroup behaviour, several areas need to be considered. In the context of this essay the concept of stereotypes needs to be defined. Although Lippmann (1922) is credited with first using the term 'stereotype' in this context it is perhaps Brown (1995) who offers the most applicable definition when he wrote that "to stereotype someone is to attribute to that person some characteristics which are seen to be shared by all or most of his or her fellow group members." (p.83). With this definition in mind this essay will, firstly, in an attempt to address the question make a brief review of some of the research that has been conducted on the formation of stereotypes. Secondly, this essay will move onto examine the function of these stereotypes in the individual, both from the perspective of intergroup conflict and also in intergroup co-operation. Thirdly this essay will also examine the research that has been carried out into the persistence of stereotypes. Because of the vast amount of research that has been conducted in this area, this essay will, as far as possible, concentrate primarily on the more recent research conducted within the last decade.

It appears from some of the research (for example Hamilton and Gifford, 1976; Hamilton and Sherman, 1989 and Chapman, 1967) that stereotypes are often derived from an over-awareness of statistically infrequent events. More specifically that if an event occurs infrequently amongst a group then it is remembered more vividly than events which might occur on a more regular basis. In a study carried out by Hamilton and Gifford (1976) they divided their participants into two groups with a disproportionate number of participants in the first group. The participants were then informed of a number of desirable and undesirable behaviours. It was found that despite the fact that members of both groups were just as likely to engage in undesirable activities an 'illusionary correlation' of the smaller group meant that a far higher number of these activities was perceived. Schaller and Maass (1989) found that this illusionary correlation would occur for positive as well as negative traits, although not when the perceived negative trait was perceived to be associated with the in-group, o...

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...m. British Journal of Social Psychology, 36, 107-117.

* Schaller, M., & Maass, A. (1989) as cited in Maass, A. & Schaller, M. (1991) Intergroup biases and the cognitive dynamics of stereotype formation. European Review of Social Psychology, 2, 190-206.

* Snyder, M. & Miene, P. K. (1994). Stereotyping the elderly: A functional approach. British Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 62-82.

* Tajfel, H. (1969) as cited in Haslam, S. A., Oakes, P. J., McGarty, C., Turner, J., C., Reynolds, K., J. & Eggins, R., A. (1996). Stereotyping and social influence: The mediation of stereotype applicability and sharedness by the views of in-group and out-group members (1996) British Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 369-397.

* Tajfel, H. & Turner, J. C. (1979) as cited in Platow, M. J., Harley, K., Hunter, J., A., Hanning, P., Shave, R. & O'Connell, A. (1997). Interpreting in-group-favouring allocations in the minimal group paradigm. British Journal of Social Psychology, 36, 107-117.

* Turner, J. C. (1987) as cited in Maass, A. & Schaller, M. (1991) Intergroup biases and the cognitive dynamics of stereotype formation. European Review of Social Psychology, 2, 190-206.

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