American Sociological Association

Typical Roles and Intergroup Relations Shape Stereotypes: How Understanding Social Structure Clarifies the Origins of Stereotype Content

How do stereotypes gain their specific content? Social psychologists have argued that stereotypes of groups, defined by demographic indicators such as sex and race, gain their content from their locations in the social structure. In one version of this claim, observations of group members’ typical roles shape stereotype content. In another version, observations of intergroup relations shape this content. This research addressed the validity and compatibility of these two claims. Three experiments manipulating the roles and intergroup relations of hypothetical groups demonstrated that stereotype content emerged from both roles and intergroup relations even when both types of information were available. Another study yielded substantial correlations between actual groups’ typical roles and their intergroup relations. We conclude that stereotype content reflects groups’ positioning in the social structure as defined by their typical social roles and intergroup relations. Discussion considers the implications of this conclusion for changing the content of stereotypes.


Anne M. Koenig and Alice H. Eagly





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