Made to stick? A cognition and culture account of social group stereotypes.

by Japinder Dhesi

Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom)
Year: 2011
Record ID: 1395990
Full text PDF: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/2785/


This thesis explores the potential of the 'Cognition and Culture' approach to serve as a conceptual framework to facilitate an integrated study of the contents of social group stereotypes and the cognitive processes and structures underpinning stereotyping. More specifically, it explores the extent to which evolved cognitive predispositions may shape the contents of stereotypes, and facilitate the naturalization of status differences between groups. Experiments 1-3 utilized the Minimal Group Paradigm to investigate whether cognitive predispositions shape the contents of social group stereotypes. Experiment 1 provided evidence for a default stereotyping mode based on two dimensions found to capture social group stereotypes universally: competence and morality/warmth. Participants rated members of their own group as competent and moral/warm. Experiment 2 provided evidence for a default status stereotyping mode. Participants rated members of high status groups as competent and members of low status groups as incompetent. Experiment 3 replicated the findings of experiment 2 using an implicit measure of stereotyping. These are the first experiments to provide evidence for stereotyping in minimal groups. The final three experiments explored whether humans hold essentialist beliefs about social status as this mode of category representation may facilitate the purported ability of stereotypes to naturalise status differences between groups. In experiment 4 it was found that status differences trigger essentialist beliefs about social groups. Experiment 5 explored essentialist beliefs about group-based social status using two thought experiment paradigms. No evidence was found for essentialist beliefs about group-based social status. However, there was an indication from participants' qualitative responses that these paradigms were not optimal. A final follow-up experiment found evidence for essentialist beliefs about group-based social status using the soul exchange paradigm. Implications for the social psychology of stereotyping, the 'Cognition and Culture' approach and social policy are discussed.