Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About usNews and EventsNews articles

Positive stereotyping best remedy for negative stereotyping

19 June 2015
Cover dissertation

How we see others and ourselves is largely determined by what is said in a good chinwag or everyday conversation. This is also true if we talk about certain groups such as heterosexuals, homosexuals, the elderly, the young, students or immigrants. This natural communication, however, can easily perpetuate negative stereotyping. The best remedy for negative stereotyping is to list positive qualities of groups: positive stereotyping. These are findings of research into stereotyping by psychologist Hedy Greijdanus, for which she will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 25 June.

Hedy Greijdanus
Hedy Greijdanus

How we see others and ourselves is largely determined by what is said in a good chinwag or everyday conversation. This is also true if we talk about certain groups such as heterosexuals, homosexuals, the elderly, the young, students or immigrants. This natural communication, however, can easily perpetuate negative stereotyping. The best remedy for negative stereotyping is to list positive qualities of groups: positive stereotyping. These are findings of research into stereotyping by psychologist Hedy Greijdanus, for which she will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 25 June.

We use information that diverges from stereotypes differently from information that is consistent with stereotypes. Positive examples of people who do not fit the stereotypes are immediately considered to be an exception to the rule, whereas negative examples confirm the stereotype. The negative stereotype itself hardly changes, if at all. Greijdanus says, ‘My research shows that there is little point reading out a list of positive examples of people if you want to counteract negative stereotyping.’ What does help is to get people to talk about the positive characteristics of stereotyped groups as a whole.

Dutch Moroccans

Greijdanus conducted various experiments for her research. In one such experiment she showed test subjects fictional newspaper articles on ‘employees’ and ‘Dutch Moroccans’. These articles were about such topics as Dutch Moroccan youngsters starting a kickboxing club and Dutch Moroccan youngsters starting an artists’ collective. The experiment showed that people find it easier to generalize the positive behaviour of a few individuals to the whole group if they expect to have to talk about the experiment (the newspaper articles).

Actor

Greijdanus also experimented with influencing stereotyping in group discussions. Unknown to the rest of the group, an actor participated in the discussions about Dutch Moroccan youngsters. It was the actor’s job to debunk the stereotypes by stimulating positive stereotyping. Incidentally, debunking negative stereotyping also proved to work in an experiment without an actor, in a natural conversational setting.

Students versus Groningers

Greijdanus also conducted experiments in which a group of Groningen students talked about an imminent meeting with a group of Groningen citizens. The students expected the Groningers to stereotype them as slovenly, lazy troublemakers. They expected more hostility when contact with the other group appeared to be imminent.

Positive stereotyping

Better contact between groups is aided above all by a change in thought patterns in groups. Listing the positive qualities of groups, or positive stereotyping, is the best remedy for negative stereotyping. Greijdanus says, ‘You can’t just stop people putting other people into boxes and expect the boxes to disappear. You can’t avoid making the boxes themselves more positive.’

Conflict resolution

The research findings may prove useful to authorities and organizations that have to deal with tense relations between different groups. Greijdanus advises focusing any intervention on discussions within these groups that place a firm emphasis on highlighting the positive aspects of abstract impressions of groups. Politicians could also benefit from the findings if they use them to change their debate strategy. Schools or merging companies could also benefit if they take a different approach to relationships between rivalling groups.

Curriculum Vitae

Hedy Greijdanus studied Psychology and completed a Research Master’s degree in Behavioural Sciences at Radboud University of Nijmegen. She conducted her PhD research, which was funded by NWO, at the University of Groningen’s Department of Social Psychology. The title of her thesis is Intragroup Communication in Intergroup Conflict: Influences on social perception and cognition. Her supervisors were Professor T.T. Postmes and Professor E.H. Gordijn. Her co-supervisor was M. van Zomeren. Greijdanus is now a lecturer in the Psychology programme.

Note for the press

Contact: Hedy Greijdanus
Last modified:25 June 2015 11.07 a.m.
printView this page in: Nederlands

More news

  • 12 November 2019

    Two winners Pieter Boekeprijs

    For the first time in the history of the Pieter Boekeprijs there are two winners: Suzy Matthijssen and David van den Berg

  • 12 November 2019

    Emeritus Professor Douwe Draaisma: ‘I’m a sucker for a good story’

    Douwe Draaisma has written books explaining why life speeds up as you get older. Now, as he settles into retirement, he gets to experience the phenomenon first hand. Mathijs Deen travelled to Texel to meet up with the autobiographical memory expert,...

  • 11 November 2019

    Can we use silence to change public opinion?

    Social psychologist Namkje Koudenburg (1986) has received an Early Career Award from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The award is intended for young researchers so that they can further develop their original research ideas...