Cross-Societal Contact: Stereotypes
This article focuses on racial stereotypes, which serve as the foundation for misunderstandings surrounding cross-societal contact. An inclusive description of stereotypes is offered, starting with a differentiation between stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination, as well as the functional aspects of stereotyping and the reasons why people utilize such generalizations. An overview of racial stereotypes is subsequently provided, beginning with Black Canadian detainees who offer their insight toward such a phenomenon, which is analyzed through the Social Constructionist, Colonial, and Cultural Transmission theoretical lenses. Also, stereotypes that afflict the Latino population as well as a concept called the "contact hypothesis" are highlighted. Finally, stereotypes with which Japanese students contend and how they relate to "outgroup homogeneity bias" are discussed.
Keywords Discrimination; Illusory Correlation; In-group Favoritism; Outgroup Homogeneity Bias; Prejudice; Stereotypes
Societies: Cross-Societal Contact: Stereotypes
Stereotypes are the foundation on which prejudicial and discriminatory behaviors reside (Hackney, 2005; Stangor, 2000). Although many people use the terms interchangeably, the distinction between each concept is relatively straightforward, in that stereotypes surround the cognitive derivations that people construct in order to help interpret their environments, and prejudice is the negative sentiment that stems from such intellectual schemata. Discrimination, on the other hand, corresponds with ensuing behavior that results from these affective responses and may be exclusive, hostile, or dismissive.
For example, Betsy is on the hiring committee of a renowned corporation, and is conducting interviews for an upcoming managerial position. One of the prospective incumbents, Katherine, arrives to discuss her work-related qualifications and Betsy notices her casual attire and youthful appearance. Betsy recalls the last office mate whom she had inaptly employed, a disheveled young man with an unprofessional demeanor who incompetently lacked the skills required to carry out his prescribed job duties. As such, the mental classification, or stereotype, that Betsy applies to the current situation equates Katherine's age into a category deemed unprincipled and amateurish. Feelings of acrimonious disregard are dredged up as Betsy recalls the laborious efforts involved with compensating for her former colleague's mishaps that eventually led her to terminate his services. These negative emotions, or prejudices, are unfairly projected onto Katherine. Consequently, Betsy directs the course of the interview with curt impertinence and terminates their meeting prematurely, upon which she disposes of Katherine's application materials in a nearby receptacle. The utter disregard that Betsy extends toward Katherine, and her inability to fairly scrutinize Katherine's merit alongside the remaining contenders, is considered discrimination.
There is a functional aspect to stereotypes, also known as categorizations. Cognitively, people draw upon ways in which they can cluster related matter together in order to provide themselves with cerebral shortcuts. For example, a person can spend a tremendous amount of time and effort memorizing all of the shades of red that exist within the color wheel. They might meticulously pore over the differences between brick, coral, crimson, rose, puce, sangria, rust, terra cotta, maroon, and scarlet. Or, they can cluster them together under the generalized umbrella of "red," and act accordingly, which enables them to come to conclusions and proceed with life in an efficient and organized manner. If, say, a real estate agent hosts an open house and provides online directions that include "turn onto Main Street and park your car in front of the first red house on the right," a person who utilizes a categorical strategy would rely on their mental index of "red" colors that encompasses a wide spectrum of shades, and would therefore not need painstaking elaboration. In other words, categorization can be quite expedient, particularly when channeled toward inanimate objects.
When pertaining to people, the process of social categorization, or stereotyping, becomes much more convoluted. Its functionality remains, in that people stereotype others because they deem it a resourceful and informative methodology. In a public school arena, if a physical altercation between two students broke loose in the cafeteria, a frightened onlooker might seek out the assistance of a teacher to help resolve the crisis, based on the stereotypical assumptions that he extends toward school personnel. This student must have deduced that all teachers are mature adults, and that they ultimately have their student body's best interest at stake and would therefore readily mediate a conflict that escalated undesirably. Of course, this is a likely generalization and probably applies to most teachers who have dedicated their lives toward molding young minds, although on a case-by-case analysis this postulation may falter; incontrovertibly there have been several teachers in recent years who have engaged in behavior that was unethical or scandalous (Chatterton, 2006). Hence, although stereotypes have a spurious reputation, they are often grounded in partial truth, which makes it difficult to discern between fact and fiction.
Moreover, stereotypes are upheld as an extension of group identity, as well as a source of sustenance to bolster their existence (Schaller, 1991). Humans are social creatures and gravitate toward establishing collective membership with likeminded others; by default the nature of group formation implies distinguishing boundaries between two or more assemblages. An aspect of communal membership involves affiliates ascribing favorable attributes and prideful dignity toward their particular group while regarding outsiders as less desirable, a process called in-group favoritism (De Cremer, 2001; Galinsky & Moskowitz, 2000; Verkuyten & De Wolf, 2007).
There are many dimensions that correspond with the act of stereotyping. Social scientists have coined the term illusory correlation (Jackson, 2000; Madey & Chasteen, 2004; Meiser & Hewstone, 2001) which describes disproportional relationships that take place between minorities and situational events. As the name suggests, minority groups contain members with less prevalence than mainstream society and, should they commit undesirable or negligent misdeeds, their behavior is often exaggerated. According to the 2010 census, African Americans comprise 12.6 percent of the US population and Caucasians constitute 72.4 percent, including 16.3 percent who identify as Hispanic or Latino. If a demographer were examining the amount of high school graduates common to a particular region, and if he improperly focused on the number as opposed to percentage, he would erroneously conclude that fewer blacks receive degrees. The layperson makes this type of computational error on a regular basis, thus contributing toward inaccurate information extended toward various groups, one way stereotypes are perpetuated.
Manzo & Bailey (2005) conducted a study in which they examined the ways detrimental, societal stereotypes adversely trickle down into the identity and behavior of Black Canadian youth. In particular, they cite shocking statistics that verify the validity of their research, including the fact that only 2% of Canadian residents are Black, although they constitute 6% of the imprisoned population. (In the 2006 census 2.5 percent of the popular identified as black; in 2011 this rose to 2.88 percent.) This is reflective of the deeply imbedded and damaging stereotypes perpetuated by American media that depict African-Americans as criminally-minded "gangstas," to which many Canadian residents are privy. The researchers gathered data through open-ended interviews and gleaned insight into the motivations, expectations, and experiences of Black detainees who ranged in age between 14 and 18 years of age. The theoretical lenses from which the study was investigated included Social Construction (Cheung, 1997; Fu-Lai & Diana, 2008; Patterson & Keefe, 2008), Colonial, and Cultural Transmission theories (Eerkens & Lipo, 2007).
Social Constructionism re-labels that which appears objectively, biologically, or pragmatically "real" as a reflection of the subjective parameters that are bound together to formulate group norms, rules, and structure within society. Hence, social constructionists would argue that "race" and "racism" are socially constructed concepts in that group members arbitrarily pinpoint the distinction of, say, skin color as a means for differentiation, and therefore, preferential treatment and intolerance based on skin color ensue. As a result, a person's self conceptualization naturally equates with the larger society. Colonial theory emphasizes the historical milestones of any given culture, and the ways in which either the dominant or inferior status of a group's ancestors prevails in modern-day patterns. Finally, Cultural Transmission theory describes the manner in which large-scale social influences such as racial stereotypes and cultural references permeate an individual's thought processes and behaviors.
Manzo and Bailey sought to examine how young criminals absorbed the stereotypes to which they had been exposed throughout the duration of their lives, which then served to induce deviant behavior. This behavior subsequently validated the cultural stereotypes. A subset of Cultural Transmission includes "vocabularies of motives" (Goldschmid, 2008; Moerk & Pincus, 2000; Ray & Simons, 1987), or the justification that a person uses, either prior to or in aftermath of criminal transgressions. An example of vocabularies of motives can be demonstrated through a statement such as "society owes me the money," which explains societal inequities that exist between racial groups that might provide a marginalized member with rationalization for robbing a bank. Another example would be if a minority angrily inflicted bodily harm onto a person of the dominant race, and said in aftermath that the victim "deserved the beating" in retaliation for a broader social problem.
Manzo and Bailey acquired tremendous insight surrounding the perceptions that are attributed toward Black culture. The young respondents felt as though pop-culture depicted images of the Black community in favorable terms (e.g., entertainers, athletes) as well as unflattering terms (e.g., criminals). Interestingly, the participants had mixed feelings about society automatically relegating them into hardened roles; the appeal was akin to Hollywood's glamorization of the...
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