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Social Stereotyping and Communication

Mary Lee Hummert


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The journalist → Walter Lippmann introduced the notion of → stereotypes in 1922 and described them as “pictures in our heads.” Current psychological theory conceptualizes those “pictures” as cognitive structures or → schemas that represent widely shared beliefs about the defining characteristics of social groups ( Operario & Fiske 2004 ). Any group might be subject to stereotypes, but the most commonly studied stereotypes are those based on race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, sex, and age. The beliefs that compose stereotypes may include physical characteristics, personality traits, behavioral tendencies, etc. Although stereotypes have traditionally been associated with exclusively negative beliefs about social groups, they generally include positive beliefs as well. For example, stereotypes of older people include not only such negative traits as being forgetful and sad, but also positive traits such as being wise and family-oriented ( Hummert in press ). According to the Stereotype Content Model (SCM; Cuddy et al. 2008 ), warmth (or its lack) and competence (or its lack) are the fundamental dimensions that define stereotypes of all groups, with some groups viewed as low on both dimensions (e.g., homeless persons), others as high on both (e.g., for US respondents, Americans), and still others as high on one dimension and low on the other (e.g., older people are ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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