Stereotyping, Prejudice and Discrimination

Please do not change any of the information in these revision cards as it is accurate and from the GCSE AQA Psychology textbook. Thank you!


Williams and Best (1994)

Aim: To investigate the extent of gender stereotyping across 30 different countries.

Method: Participants were given over 300 characteristics and asked to state whether the characteristics were more likely to be associated with men, women or both genders.

Results: They found that across the 30 countries, the same characteristics tended to be associated with males and females. Females were described as 'understanding', 'emotional' and 'warm'. Males were described as 'reckless', 'hard-headed' and 'determined'.

Conclusion: The findings of the cross-cultural study suggests that there are commonly held stereotypes of males and females.


  • It is only 30 countries so it cannot be said this is the same for the whole world.
  • Good cross-cultural study to compare against so more reliable results.
  • As there were three options (male, female or both), it shows a good approach to the questions and limits demand characteristics.
  • Translation of words might change their meaning, making the results less reliable.
1 of 22

Rubin et al (1977)

Aim: To find out if new parents stereotype their babies.

Method: Parents were asked to describe their new babies within 24 hours of the baby being born.

Results: They found that parents of baby boys described their babies as being alert and strong, whereas parents of baby girls described their babies as soft and delicate.

Conclusion: Parents stereotype their children from a very early stage despite no stereotypical behaviour being shown. For a lot of parents who know the gender of their baby prior to birth, this stereotyping behaviour starts before the baby is born by painting a room pink for a girl or blue for a boy.


  • There is no comparison to when the parents didn't know the gender.
  • In 24 hours, they would have no sense of the babies behaviour so can't say how their babies behave.
  • Parents can be biased, but this can be good because it could mean better results for this experiment.
2 of 22

Practical Implications of the previous studies

- Children observe and imitate those around them particularly role models from the media.

- This had led to a change in the characters in children's programmes are portrayed. This is to prevent children from growing up believing that all females want to stay at home and look after the children and are not capable of doing manual jobs.

- The practical implication if that males and females can be free to pursue a career that suits them.

3 of 22

Barrett and Short (1992)

Aim: To look at the development of prejudice among young children.

Method: Researchers interviewed 216 English children aged between five and ten years old, on their views and opinions on people from different European countries.

Results: It was found that, at this age, children already demonstrated more positive views towards some European groups than to others. They found that the Germans were liked the least while the French were liked the most, despite the children having no factual information on these nationalities.

Conclusion: By the age of ten, children already hold prejudiced views towards other nationalities. 

4 of 22

Adorno (1950)

Aim: To test the idea that a person may be prejudiced towards somebody else because of their personality.

Method: They interviewed hundreds of former Nazi soldiers. They developed a personality scale as part of this research known as the F-scale (F stands for fascist), which they used to measure responses to a series of weighted questions.

Results: Adorno found a particular pattern of personality characteristics, which they called the authoritarian personality. Those with an authoritarian personality tended to be:

- Hostile to those who are of inferior status but obedient towards those of a higher status

- Fairly rigid in their opinions (sticking with the same beliefs and opinions)

- Not willing to accept any new ideas or new situations.

Conclusion: Adorno concluded that these characteristics make those who have them likely to categorise others readily into 'us' and 'them' groups, seeing their own group as superior and treating people of a different group in a negative way.

5 of 22

Adorno (1950) - continued

Conclusion: Adorno's research also indicated that those people with anauthoritarian personality were more likely to make had a very strict upbringing. Adorno claimed that these people experienced hostility towards their parents that they were unable to express. This hostility was directed onto safer targets, namely those who were weaker and unable to hurt them, leading to them holding prejudiced views and discriminating against them.


  • It doesn't explain why people are prejudiced towards some groups but not others.
  • Difficult to provide evidence to support idea that parenting style contributes to authoritarian personality. Evidence relies on people's memories, not always reliable or accurate.
  • Some prejudiced people in society didn't grow up with critical and strict parents. Likewise, there are people in society who grew up with critical and strict parents but are not prejudiced.
  • Statements in the F-scale test have been criticised as believed the statements were easier to agree with than disagree with so were not a reliable way of measuring people's views.
  • The research was done in America so cannot be generalised to the rest of the world.
  • Adorno only found that there was a relationship between personality type and prejudice. This cannot show cause and effect. 
6 of 22

Tajfel (1970)

Aim: To show how easily people discriminate the out-groups.

Method: 14 - 15 year old boys were randomly assigned to two groups. Each boy was given a game to play where he had to award pairs of points. They were told points could be swapped for prizes at the end.

Results: They awarded points by choosing pairings that created the biggest difference between groups, not pairings that gave them the most points.

Conclusion: People will discriminate against others because they are members of an out group.


  • Tajfel used boys aged 14 - 15 years old so cannot be generalised to girls or other age groups.
  • Groups were artificially created, doesn't reflect real life. In real life, the groups we belong to mean something to us, to be part of a created group is a false situation.
  • Other research, using people of both sexes and all ages, supported Tajfel's findings. Assigning people to groups discourages discrimination, people on best behaviour so not judged.
7 of 22

Gill (1980)

She conducted research to find out the kind of reasons people gave for their successes and failures.

She asked female basketball players what they thought was responsible for their wins and losses. Results showed that players said their success were due to their own teams ability, but their failures were blamed on the other team. Gill concluded that people give reasons for their failures that protect their self esteem. However, there was no evidence of playing down the team.

For instance, when jobs are scarce there may be an increase in prejudice towards minority groups, or when one group gains political power and uses it to benefit its own members at the expense of others. These types of circumstances can be explained by the idea of inter group conflict or by scapegoating.

8 of 22

Sherif et al (1961)

Aim: To find out if prejudice develops when groups are in competition for scarce resources.

Method: An American summer camp was organised for 22 boys. The boys were randomly split into two teams and the teams were kept away from each other. They were not aware that the other team existed. The boys were given time to settle into their camps and form a group identity. After a while, the two groups discovered each other and the camp staff introduced a series of competitions with the prize for the winning team being a silver cup.

Results: Very quickly, the teams began unpleasant name-calling towards each other and tried to attack each other.

Conclusion: Sherif concluded that competition increases both the unity within the groups and each groups hostility towards the other groups.


  • The study was a field experiment, which means it has high ecological validity. As a result of this, it should be expected that more natural behaviour will occur (compared with a laboratory experiment)
9 of 22

Sherif et al (1961) - continued


  • The sample can be criticised as it cannot be generalised to real life because the research only used 12 year old, white, middle class boys. Also girls were not used, so the sample can be regarded as being biased.
  • Ethical issues must be considered. The participants were deceived as they did not know the true aim of the study, even though the deception was necessary. However, the participants were not protected from physical or psychological harm.
10 of 22

Social Contact

If prejudice and discrimination are based on a lack of knowledge about other groups then increasing the contact between members of the groups could increase knowledge and break down stereotypes and therefore decrease prejudice and discrimination.

Research by Sherif showed that it is not enough to bring people together. Social contact was used by Sherif after he created hostility between groups, he created a task (pushing a car out of mud so they made it in time for lunch) that made them all work together and so reduced prejudice views.

11 of 22

Aronson et al (1978)

Aim: Aronson and his collegues were called in by a Texas school to devise some ways of reducing prejudice between the black and white students. They devised the jigsaw technique.

Method: This involved dividing the class into smaller groups of racially mixed students, each of which had to work on a part of a lesson. The individuals in the groups first had to work together, and then communicated their group work to the rest of the class in order for the whole class to cover all of the material.

Results: When Aronson evaluated the strategy, he found increased co-operation, self esteem, and academic performance. He also noted more positive perceptions of students in the other racial groups, which would suggest that stereotypes were breaking down.

Conclusion: Aronson found that these new perceptions were not generalised to members of the racial group outside the class; these students saw each other as exceptions to the stereotypes, but the stereotypes themselves did not change very much.

So although co-operation strategies can reduce prejudice, the individual may not generalise these new attitudes to others when they are in a different setting.

12 of 22

Elliott (1977)

Field Experiment!

Aim: To test the idea that if we experience prejudice and discrimination ourselves, it may help to reduce it in the future.

Method: Elliott divided the children in her class into two groups on the basis of ther eye colour: blue eyed and brown eyed. Then she told them that brown eyed people were better and more intelligent than those with blue eyes, so they would be given extra priviledges. The blue eyed students wore collars to distinguish them, had to wait until the end of the line and had less break time.

The next day she told them she had made a mistake and that blue eyed people were superior. On the third day, she told them the truth: that there were no such differences but that she wanted them to feel what it was like to be judged on the basis of one, irrelevant, physical feature which they could not change.

Results: The children started to behave according to these stereotypes: on day one, the brown eyed children became dominant, produced better work and started to treat the blue eyed children badly, while the blue eyed children became angry or depressed and their work deteriorated. The next day, the patterns of prejudice and discrimination quickly reversed.

13 of 22

Elliott (1977) - continued

Conclusion: This techinique seemed to be effective in reducing prejudice. When Elliott contacted these students as 18 years old, she found that they were more tolerant of differences between groups and more opposed to prejudice than a control group comprised of a class who had not gone through the brown eyed/blue eyed experience.

Evaluation: Her research could be criticised as it was a small sample size of young children the same age from a small town in the USA. It is difficult to generalise the findings to other age groups, cultures and ethnicities. There is also the ethical issues as the children suffered from psychological stress. However, it was quite effective as her research has been used by others since then.

14 of 22

Harwood (2003)

Aim: To investigate children's views on the elderly.

Method: Harwood asked children and their grandparents about their relationships. The children were also questioned about their views of elderly people in general.

Results: Children who had regular contact with grandparents held positive views towards the elderly.

Conclusion: Contact with grandparents is a good predictor of a child's attitude towards the elderly.

Evaluation: Information gathered from interviews is not always reliable. Some children still have positive attitudes towards the elderly who do not have regular contact with their grandparents. 

15 of 22

Practical implications for reducing prejudice

  • Sherif's theory is difficult to put into practice in real life. There may be tasks in communities that will need groups to work together to complete, but it may be hard to get the groups to join.
  • Aronson's work suggests that, within schools and workplaces, prejudice could be reduced, but this may not generalise to other settings. Short term success with tasks but easily forgotten for life in general.
  • Elliott's method of creating empathy within her children worked, but you need children to experience this at an early age. 
  • Harwood's research illustrates the importance of regular contact between children and grandparents which helps society to run more smoothly. 
16 of 22

Levine (2002)

Aim: To show that, if people believed they had a relationship with a stranger, they would be more likely to help them.

Method: A situation was set up so that a stunt man fell over in front of Manchester United fans. Half the time he was wearing a Manchester United shirt; the rest of the time he was wearing a Liverpool shirt.

Results: When he was wearing the Manchester United shirt, he was helped to his feet every time. However, when he was wearing the Liverpool shirt, he was left to help himself every time. 

Conclusion: When we feel we have something in common with others, we are more likely to help them. We are less likely to help out group members.

17 of 22


It is an oversimplified, generalised set of ideas that we have about others. We tend to have stereotypes for different professions, cultures, ages, ethnicities, physical shape and dress. (e.g. secondary headteachers are strict, intimidating, scary and male.) Through stereotypes, we make snap judgements and assign them to a category. These judgements tend to lead us to have a negative impression, but they can also be positive.

18 of 22

Advantages and disadvantages of stereotypes


  • It can enable us to respond quickly to situations because we may have had a similar experience before.
  • Using stereotypes is a simple way of organising and remembering information about other people.
  • It reduces the amount of cognitive effort we need to make (for example, thinking)
  • They help us to interpret unknown information about someone else.
  • They provide us with a sense of belonging to a group, because of our shared beliefs about people in other groups.


  • They are usually oversimplified
  • They lead us to make assumptions about others when we know very little about them.
  • They affect what we remember and forget about other people.
  • They lead us to view members of out-groups (people who don't belong to our group) in a negative way, leading to prejudice and discrimination.
19 of 22

Prejudice and Discrimination

  • Prejudice is an attitude, which is usually negative, towards a particular group based on characteristics which are assumed to be common to all members of the group. They can be either negative or positive.
  • Discrimination is the way an individual behaves towards another person or group as a result of their prejudiced view. This too can be either negative or positive.

Reasons why prejudice views can develop at an early age: parental influence, education (because of how they are taught about cultures), media (for example, TV, books, etc), friends (peer influence) and experiences.

Types of prejudice:

  • Sexism - Having stereotypical views against genders (e.g. choosing a person for a job based on their gender).
  • Racism - Having stereotypical views against races (e.g. not letting a person into a public place because of their race).
  • Ageism - Having steretypical views against the different ages. (e.g.a bus allowing elderly people on first).
20 of 22

Characteristics of an authoritarian personality

  • Disliking Jews (however, the study which these characteristics were based included some Nazi people so this may not be true for all authoritarian personalities)
  • Being resistant to any change, perferring to stick to established routines
  • Holding traditional values and beliefs
  • Sticking rigidly to beliefs
  • Being obedient to those in a higher authority
  • Looking down on those who are felt to be of a lesser status.
21 of 22

Aronson's research

He showed that more effective ways of reducing prejudice through social contact:

When those experiencing prejudice and discrimination are of higher status than the discriminator. Research suggests that when members of two groups are in contact, it is the higher-status members who dominate - they tend to intiate things and be listened to by others, and their views are more likely to be followed. If the members of both groups are of equal status, it is not enough to 'tip the balance', so to speak, in the favour of those experiencing. 

22 of 22


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Stereotyping, discrimination and prejudice resources »