According to Moskowitz (2005) “stereotypes can be construed as category-based expectancies that we have learned from our own personal experiences and/or various socializing agents within the culture (parents, teachers, religion, friends, the Internet, TV, etc.)” (p. 438). Further, Jones (1990) stated, “we have expectancies about every person with whom we interact; therefore, no observation, inference, or interaction is free from the influence of the expectancies that we bring to the person perception process” (as cited in Moskowitz, 2005, p. 438-439). Thus, it is understandable how easily stereotypes can become automated after numerous social experiences and/or social exposures to particular cognitive construals.
Pettigrew and Meertens (1995) sought to discern definitive distinctions between blatant and subtle stereotypes; however, their efforts have met with considerable criticism and debate relating to their methodologies and conceptualizations. Although their conception of blatant prejudice being composed of “perceived threat from and rejection of the outgroup” and “opposition to intimate contact with the outgroup” (p. 58) is widely accepted, their conception of subtle prejudice being composed of “the defense of traditional values, exaggeration of cultural differences, and denial of positive emotions” (p. 58-59) remains more controversial (Coenders, Scheepers, Sniderman, & Verberk, 2001). Despite the ongoing debate relating to semantic terminology for “subtle” prejudice, their description of blatant versus subtle prejudice is oft repeated: “blatant prejudice is hot, close and direct, subtle prejudice is cool, distant, and indirect” (Pettigrew & Meertens, 1995, p. 58), likely as a result of the phrase being vivid, salient, and memorable.
Nomenclature aside, stereotyping and expression of prejudice has changed dramatically in the last 35 years as predominant social norms and legal statutes prevailed frowning upon and legally punishing overt, blatant expressions of stereotyping and/or prejudice (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1999). The concept of being politically correct appeared, people began to watch what they said, and how they said it (controlled processing). However, as research has evidenced, controlling what you say and how you say it does not necessarily obviate the existence of the stereotypes being controlled (Devine, 1989). Rather, egalitarian inclined persons strive to be better than the simplistic categorizations and stereotypes we deem inappropriate. Unfortunately, changing beliefs and attitudes is not as simple as changing your clothing. There are significant implicit, automatic processes at work developed over a lifetime of experiences and socialization processes. Thus, although individuals may strive for more egalitarian viewpoints and decision making, when cognitive resources are limited or situational constraints, implicit stereotype responses or reactions may occur representing the contemporary version of stereotyping and prejudice, commonly known as aversive prejudice or subtle prejudice (Devine, 1989; Dovidio & Gaertner, 1999).
In the media this week, Stereotyping, numerous stereotypical comments are made and/or depicted for review and discussion (Laureate, 2011). My selection of a blatant stereotype example was obvious and continuously represented throughout the segment by Steve, whom I suspect is reflective of a generally high prejudiced person (versus low prejudiced). For instance, Steve makes several insulting comments to and about Jim in reference to Jim’s weight suggestive of thin versus overweight stereotyping. Steve tells Jim not to stand up, “it’s better for all of us.” Steve also makes a snide comment that Jim could not run up and down a flight of stairs, again indirectly referencing Jim’s weight. Steve also makes gender stereotype remarks regarding a member of the IT team named Jill who is not present at the meeting. Steve’s comments, gestures, and expressions are blatantly stereotypical and misogynistic. Ironically, despite Steve’s gender stereotypical comments regarding Jill, he also assumed Sally was from IT. Historically, IT positions are held by men, not women. Steve has evidenced stereotyping related to gender, fitness, and ethnicity (regarding Francisco) and yet, he assumed Sally was from IT. It is possible his ethnic stereotypes are stronger than his gender stereotypes.
Although the media represented Karl’s first interaction with Sally as blatantly stereotypical and two follow up interactions as subtly stereotypical, it was my impression they were all subtly stereotypical and largely the result of implicit/automatic stereotyping due to shortage of cognitive resources. Devine (1989) determined that subjects high and low in prejudice have “cognitive structures (i.e., stereotypes) that can support prejudiced responses” (p. 12). However, subjects low in prejudice are “motivated to reaffirm their nonprejudiced self-concepts” (p. 12). This is accomplished through controlled thought processes. In the media excerpt, Karl is depicted as shuffling through papers, running the meeting, and seemed a little distracted when Sally arrived to the meeting a few minutes late. He took a quick glance at Sally, quickly categorized (stereotyped) her as Asian and erroneously inquired if she was Quan Lee. He followed up this erroneous stereotype with another that Sally was from IT. I am assuming this categorization was based on her ethnicity; however, being an IT person would seem to imply intelligence, which is a positive character trait, not negative. As mentioned previously, historically IT has been a profession dominated by men, not women. Thus, Karl’s assumption that Sally was from IT is less representative of typical stereotyping, ethnic or gender, and more indicative of a lack of cognitive resources and ill-considered assumptions.
Sally was an excellent example of an egalitarian presentation. When she suggested Steve for the project of linking the databases her reasoning was based on persuasive, although flawed, logic regarding Steve’s wearing a watch and being effective resulting in leaving on time each day. Ironically, based on Sally’s comments, she has categorized Steve as an effective, time conscious individual, while I would have him pegged as a clock watching, time card punching, put my time in and leave type of person, with little interest in being the “most effective” person in his department.
Strategies for blatant stereotypes and prejudice run the gamut from educational interventions to legal legislation. “Attempts to reduce the direct, traditional form of racial prejudice typically involve educational strategies to enhance knowledge and appreciation of other groups (e.g., multicultural education programs), emphasize norms that prejudice is wrong, and involve direct persuasive strategies (e.g., mass media appeals) or indirect attitude-change techniques to make people aware of inconsistencies in their attitudes and behavior” (Dovidio, 1999, p. 102). However, as discussed hereinabove, these interventions have not removed all stereotyping and prejudice; rather, they have transformed the existence and expression of same.
Successful interventions and mediation measures for contemporary prejudice and stereotyping involve intergroup contact through cooperative and personal interactions allowing for individualization, decategorization, and development of cross-cutting identities (Dovidio, 1999).
Coenders, M., Scheepers, P., Sniderman, P. M., & Verberk, G. (2001). Blatant and subtle prejudice: Dimensions, determinants, and consequences; some comments on Pettigrew and Meertens. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31, 281-297. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.44
Devine, P. G. (1989). Stereotypes and prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56(1), 5-18. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037//0022-35220.127.116.11
Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (1999). Reducing prejudice: Combating intergroup biases. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(), 101-105. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.00024
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2011). Stereotyping. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Moskowitz, G. B. (2005). Social cognition: Understanding self and others. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Pettigrew, T. F., & Meertens, R. W. (1995). Subtle and blatant prejudice in western Europe. European Journal of Social Psychology, 25, 57-75. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2420250106