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Why we stererotype influences how we stereotype: self-enhancement and comprehension effects on social perception

13 March 2008

Stereotypes are generalized beliefs about the characteristics of groups of individuals and form the basis of prejudice. Stereotyping can be functional in at least two ways: as a tool to understand the world around us and because it can help to elevate ones self-esteem. In this dissertation, the focus lies on the specific influences of these two goals on the use of stereotypes in social perception.

Through a number of experiments, it is shown that an increased need to understand the world around us (for example, when one walks around in an unfamiliar city), results in more positive and negative stereotyping, whereas an increased need to elevate ones self-esteem (for example, when one failed an exam), results only in more negative stereotyping. Subsequently, when these needs are relieved through stereotyping or in a different way, stereotype use decreases.

Furthermore, it appears that these two goals are not interchangeable with respect to stereotyping: when stereotyping is driven by a comprehension goal, only increased understanding, and not an increased self-esteem, counteracts stereotyping. This finding highlights the importance of distinguishing between comprehension driven and self-enhancement driven stereotyping, because they represent two different routes that lead to different kinds of stereotyping and can be countered in different ways. In other words: why we stereotype influences how we use, and can counteract the use of, stereotypes.

PhD ceremony: A. van den Bos, 16.15 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Promotor(s): prof.dr. D. Stapel

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.37 p.m.

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