UNIT ONE Stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination


What is stereotyping? Williams and Best

Stereotype: an oversimplified, generalised set of ideas that we have about others.

Stereotypes tend to give negative impressions but allow us to make quick judgements about people and assign them to a category.

Aim: To investigate the extent of sex 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 sexes.

Results: 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 this cross-cultural study suggest that there are commonly held stereotypes of males and females.

1 of 10

Stereotyping Rubin et al and Practical implication

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

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

Results: 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 sex 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.

Practical implications-

-characters in children's programmes are potrayed differently to prevent stereotyping

-reduction in stereotypical views allows people to pursue the jobs they want

2 of 10

Stereotyping Advantages and Disadvantages


  • helpful to make quick judgements if we don't have time to form a full impression
  • enable us to remember information about other people
  • enable us to respond appropriately when we meet new people for the first time
  • enable us to fit in with our own group and feel a sense of belonging


  • they can stop us seeing the real person when we meet someone for the first time
  • most stereotypes promote harmful images
  • we can make mistakes about people when meeting them for the first time
  • once learnt by children, they may be difficult to overcome
3 of 10

Prejudice and Discrimination Barrett and Short

Prejudice: A rigid set of attitudes or beliefs towards particular groups of people. These attitudes are usually negative, but not always.

Discrimination: The way an individual behaves towards another person or group as a result of their prejudiced view. This behaviour is usually neagtive, but could also be positive.

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 demonstarted more positive views towards some European countries 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 10, children already hold prejudiced views towards other nationalities.

4 of 10

Authoritarian Personality

Authoritarian personality: a personality type that is prone to being prejudiced.

F-scale: The questionnaire used by Adorno to meazsure personality characteristics.

Aim: To find out if there is a relationship between personality type and prejudiced beliefs.

Method: Hundreds of people were interviewed and tested using the F-Scale.

Results: They found a relationship between personality traits and prejudiced views.

Conclusion: There is an authoritarian personality and they are highly likely to be prejudiced.

Characteristics: disliking Jews, being resistant to change, holding traditional views, being obedient to authority, looking down on others, strict and critical parents.

Evaluation:  doesn't explain why people are prejudice to some groups and not others,  evidence for strict parents relies on memories, there are contradictions to the rule, correlation does not show cause and effect, research was done in America, statements in F-scale are easier to agree with than diasgree with

5 of 10

Sherif (Robbers Cave)

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

Method: An American summer camp was organsied for 22 boys. They were randomly split into two teams and kept away from each other, not aware of the others existence. They were given time to form a group identity and then they discoevered each other and were introduced to a serires of competitions. The prize was a silver cup.

Results: The teams began unpleasant name calling towards each other and tried to attack.

Conclusion: Competition is a cause of prejudice.

Evaluation: Groups were artifical so lacks ecological validity, 12 year old white middle class boys cannot be generalised to everyone, implications= helps to understand how prejudice can arise between groups who are competing for the same thing, shows how quickly people form alliances with others when they feel they have something in common, and how they turn against people who they see as different.

6 of 10

Tajfel and Levine

Tajefel Aim: To show how easily people discriminate against their 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. Points could be swapped for prizes.

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

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

Levine Aim: To see if people are more likely to help a stranger if they have things in common.

Method: A stuntman fell over in front of Manchester United fans- half of the time he wore a Manchester United shirt, the rest of the time he wore a Liverpool shirt.

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

Conclusion: We are more likely to help someone we have things in common with.

7 of 10

Reducing Prejudice Sherif and Aronson


He attempted to arrange joint activites between the boys (eg trips to the cinema). This did not work, so he set up a situation where their truck got stuck in mud and needed pulling out, or they would all miss dineer. This was successful because the task could not be completed without effort from all. Sherif concluded that cooperation on an important task is one way of reducing prejudice between groups.


He developed a technique called the Jigsaw method, where students were in mixed race groups, each taking responsibility for a part of the lesson. They had to become experts on their part before passing their knowledge on to another group of students within the class. This technique proved successful because each student was responsible for their own learning as well as that of others. The method had:

-enhanced their self esteem -improved their perception of the other racial group -increased liking of other classmates

8 of 10

Reducing Prejudice Elliott and Harwood

Elliot Aim: To teach her class what it felt like to be victims of discrimination.

Method: She told her class that blue eyed children were smarter than brown eyed and are the best people in the room. Brown eyed children were not allowed to play with blue eyed children in the playground because they are not as good and they cannot use the water fountain.

Results: Blue eyed children were delighted, arrogant and became vicious. Brown eyed chuldren were angry, saddened, confused and withdrawn. When Elliott reversed the experiment, the same results were found. Fights broke out in the playground between previous friends.

Conclusion: They would grow up to be more tolerant of others, had experienced discrimination.

Harwood Aim: To investigate children's views of the elderly.

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

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

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

9 of 10

Reducing Prejudice Evaluation

Sherif- may only have been successful because of artifical groups and situations.

Aronson- positive perceptions of others were not generalised outside of the classroom.

Elliott- could be considered unethical as children suffered psychological stress, but nine years later the students were more tolerant and showed more empathy towards others.

Harwood- information gathered in interviews isn't always reliable, can be contradictions.

Practical Implications

-Sherif's theory is difficult to put in practice, how do you get groups to join in?

-prejudice can be reduced in work settings but it may not be generalised elsewhere

-need children to experience Elliott's method at an early age

-illustrates importance of regular contact between different groups.

10 of 10


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

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