Slide 3 of 17
How and why do people form stereotypes? The commonsense answer to these questions is captured in social learning theory. Simply put, we learn stereotypes from parents (our first and most influential teachers), significant others (e.g., peers), and the media. True enough. Research supports commonsense here but also indicates that commonsense does not tell the whole story.
Another explanation for how we form stereotypes comes from research in cognitive psychology on the categorization process. People like to, want to, need to categorize the world, both the social and physical world, into preferably neat little groups. They inevitably do so (i.e., categorize) for 3 reasons.
1) itís cognitively efficient - once you have categorized you no longer need to consider information about each individual member of the group. You can apply all of the group information to all of its members. Categorization saves processing time and we are COGNITIVE MISERS.
2) it satisfies the need to understand and predict the social world. You no longer need to wonder what each individual is like (understand), or what he or she is likely to do (predict). All of this is contained in the stereotype.
3) itís a way to feel better about yourself; we thing our groups (ingroups) are better than other groups (outgroups)- the INGROUP FAVORABILITY BIAS