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Stereotyping as a form of communication.

1. Introduction

Greenwald and Banaji demonstrate the pervasiveness of projections of the self attitude onto other objects, and indicate the need for measures of individual differences in implicit self-esteem. Klein et al. insist that social stereotypes may influence people's impressions of targets, and may impact on the way they communicate about these targets. Schaller et al. observe that the contents of stereotypes are influenced by various sorts of biases in attention to, encoding of, and recall for information about groups and group members. To be amenable to psychological analysis, a stereotype must be defined at an individual level. Sinclair et al. examine how social interactions with individuals who ostensibly have stereotype-relevant views affect the self-evaluations of stereotype targets. Rosenshield says that the best way to define the Russian Jewish stereotype of the early nineteenth century is to present it in terms of what it is not.

2. Stereotypes and Reality

Greenwald and Banaji write that to the extent that implicit cognition differs from self-reportable cognition, direct measures are necessarily inadequate for its study (in studying implicit cognition, indirect measures are theoretically essential). An implicit attitude is an existing attitude projected onto a novel object. Greenwald and Banaji point out that an implicit effect can occur when an actor (a) notices some aspect of an automatic effect caused by one stimulus and (b) mislabels it in a way that that influences the judgment of either that stimulus or some other stimulus. Priming and context effects involve the effect of prior events on the response to a current stimulus. Implicit social cognition offers a theoretical reorganization of phenomena that have been described in other ways. Greenwald and Banaji use attitude and stereotype as labels for two major categories of implicit social cognition, and consider phenomena of implicit social cognition in the categories represented by construct designations of attitude, self-esteem, and stereotype. Attitudes have predictive validity in situations in which they are strongly activated and/or when the actor clearly perceives a link between attitude and behavior. Greenwald and Banaji assert that some strong effects of attitude can occur when the actor is not attentionally focused on the attitude. Advertising audiences are frequently inattentive and may be susceptible to implicit effects of an extraneous attractiveness cue. Novel objects that are invested with an association to self should be positively evaluated. Phenomena of implicit affiliation and rejection reveal second-order implicit self-esteem. Greenwald and Banaji examine the extent to which stereotypes operate implicitly, outside of conscious cognition. Stereotypes are often expressed implicitly in the behavior of persons who explicitly disavow the stereotype. Attentional focus attenuates weak automatic influences on judgment. Decreased attention, due to distraction or time pressure, results in increased implicit effects of cues that are peripheral to the subject's task. When attention is focused on the source of an implicit effect that interferes with judgment, that interference is reduced or eliminated. Implicit cognitive effects are weakened or reversed for subjects who could recall the stimuli that ordinarily produce those effects. Conscious attentional effort can weaken the influence of a current or previous cue on performance. (1)

Brauer et al. note that informal discussions among like-minded individuals lead to a polarization of group members' attitudes. Stereotypes can be inaccurate both in their content and in their application. Group members' views of a target group tend to become more stereotypical as a result of group discussion. (2) Klein et al. posit that to understand the impressions people form about others, we need to identify what kind of information they have at their disposal. Klein et al. suggest that two classes of factors may affect the communication of stereotype-consistent information: the first class of factors involves the cognitive processes affecting impression formation, while the second class of factors is the application of widely-shared communicational principles. Klein et al. test whether the influence of stereotypes on the communication of social knowledge can be explained in terms of the maxim of quantity. Klein et al. emphasize certain correlations between the importance accorded to traits in communication and the evaluation of traits as: (1) belonging to the personal stereotype, (2) to the cultural stereotype, and (3) to the audience's stereotype respectively. Stereotypical perceptions of a target are more likely to be transmitted to an audience who is unaware of the target's social category. (3)

3. The Importance of Communication for the Creation and Persistence of Social Stereotypes

Scollon and Scollon claim that stereotyping is a way of thinking that does not acknowledge internal differences within a group, and does not acknowledge exceptions to its general rules or principles. "Stereotypes limit our understanding of human behavior and of intercultural discourse because they limit our view of human activity to just one or two salient dimensions and consider those to be the whole picture." (4) One strategy to avoid stereotyping "is to use multiple dimensions to contrast cultures." (5) Scollon and Scollon propose two types of face politeness systems (involvement and independence) used in both Asian and Western communities. "Where people are in close relationship to each other and of relatively equal status, in both East and West the normal pattern is the deductive pattern." (6) In any particular communicative situation, "the participants will simultaneously be members of various discourse systems." (7) Ren and Wang note that, in intercultural communication, the term stereotype refers to some inflexible statements about a category of people. Stereotypes assume that everyone from a group has certain characteristics and allow no room for individual differences. Ren and Wang point out that stereotype refers to a shared conception of characters of a group. Stereotyping is the way we come to know the world. All humans develop mental categories to help making sense of their environment. Knowing stereotyping of our national cultural traits by others helps increase our cultural awareness. Stereotypes may trick us into believing that knowing a few stereotypes is the same thing as understanding another culture. (8)

4. The Communicability of Stereotypic Beliefs

Schaller et al. contend that negative stereotypic traits of outgroups are characterized by greater abstractness and breadth. Certain features of traits may predict the contents of stereotypes at a point in time and changes in those contents across time. Potentially stereotypic traits differ in the extent to which they are likely to be expressed in interpersonal discourse. Schaller et al. think that the effect of trait communicability on the contents of a stereotype should be moderated by the conversational prominence of the target group. Schaller et al. test several hypotheses concerning the relation between the communicability of traits and the contents of ethnic group stereotypes. As a consequence of cognitive biases associated with frequency, behavioral frequency can influence stereotype formation in multiple ways. Different effects of behavioral frequency can either mask relations between communicability and stereotypicality or lead to spurious communicability-stereotypicality correlations. (9) Social identification implies inter-group stereotyping. (10)

According to Sinclair et al., self-stereotyping is situationally contingent on the perceived views of salient social interaction partners and the affiliative motivation directed toward them. Sinclair et al. identify challenges for stereotype targets and the people who interact with them: individuals who interact with stereotype targets need not hold, or overtly express, stereotypes for self-evaluative shift among stereotype targets to occur. Stereotype targets must seek to accurately perceive the stereotype-relevant views of others. (11)

Rosenshield focuses on the ways in which Gogol and the young Turgenev and Dostoevsky exploit the stereotype of the ridiculous Jew for different literary and cultural ends: Gogol, Turgenev, and Dostoevsky integrate the Jewish stereotype into the thematic and symbolic structures of their works (they are engaged in a literary and cultural conversation about the stereotype and its significance for Russian life). The positive Jew is a recent manifestation of the allosemitic stereotype. The idea of the differing function of the Jewish stereotype is central to Rosenshield's method of tracing the way the Jew is used in Gogol, Turgenev, and Dostoevsky. The negative stereotype reinforces negative consonance. With Turgenev and Dostoevsky, the stereotype goes against their common practice. Rosenshield observes that the Jewish stereotype has remained remarkably stable throughout the centuries, and shows that Gogol needs the negative stereotype of the Jew to highlight the positive attributes of a Russian ideal, while Turgenev needs the Russian ideal to outline the negative aspects of the Jewish stereotype. Turgenev challenges the validity of the stereotype and exploits its most negative aspects. Gogol exploits the traditional stereotype of the Jew as homo economicus. Turgenev uses the stereotypical Jew to define his Russian hero. (12)

5. Conclusions

Greenwald and Banaji state that a cue that redirects attention to the source of a possible implicit effect can produce a reduction or reversal of that implicit effect. Schaller et al. reason that changes in ethnic stereotypes are based in part on changes in the actual behavioral characteristics (or circumstances) of ethnic groups. Sinclair et al. put it that stereotype targets adjust their own self-evaluations and behaviors to the expectations of others in an effort to build and foster social bonds. On Rosenshield's reading, what is interesting about the Jewish stereotype is not its common features but the uses to which these features are put for different aesthetic ends.


(1.) Greenwald, A.G. and Banaji, M.R. (1995), "Implicit Social Cognition: Attitudes, Self-Esteem, and Stereotypes," Psychological Review 102(1): 427.

(2.) Brauer, M. et al. (2001), "The Communication of Social Stereotypes: The Effects of Group Discussion and Information Distribution on Stereotypic Appraisals," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 81(3): 463475.

(3.) Klein, O. et al. (2004), "'If You Know He Is an Engineer, I Don't Need to Tell You He Is Smart': The Influence of Stereotypes on the Communication of Social Knowledge," Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive / Current Psychology of Cognition 22: 463-178.

(4.) Scollon, R. and Scollon, S.W. (2001), Intercultural Communication: A Discourse Approach. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 169.

(5.) Ibid., 175.

(6.) Ibid., 95.

(7.) Ibid., 261.

(8.) Ren, X. and Wang, H. (2006), "A Study of Cultural Stereotypes in Intercultural Communication," Sino-US English Teaching 3(3): 44-47.

(9.) Schaller, M. (2002), "Selective Pressures on the Once and Future Contents of Ethnic Stereotypes: Effects of the Communicability of Traits," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 82(6): 861-877.

(10.) Hickman, Th. and Ward, J. (2007), "The Dark Side of Brand Community: Inter-Group Stereotyping, Trash Talk, and Schadenfreude," Advances in Consumer Research 34: 314-319.

(11.) Sinclair, S. et al. (2005), "Social Tuning of the Self: Consequences for the Self-Evaluations of Stereotype Targets," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 89(2): 160-175.

(12.) Rosenshield, G. (2008), The Ridiculous Jew: The Exploitation and Transformation of a Stereotype in Gogol, Turgenev, and Dostoevsky. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.


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Author:Bratu, Sofia
Publication:Geopolitics, History, and International Relations
Article Type:Report
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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