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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds So in the previous lecture I talked about how complexity in our environments in general affected decision making, so cognition, judgement , and a little bit about behaviour, I talked about that as well. Today I’m going to be putting a spotlight on one of the specific effects of complexity in our environment, specifically stereotyping. So what are stereotypes? Stereotypes are generalised beliefs we hold about groups of people. And the term stereotype was coined by the journalist Walter Lippmann in 1922. So I talked about in the last lecture this idea of the representative heuristic, noticing events that confirm my way of seeing the world, that represent might preexisting way of seeing the world.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds And that salience leads to what is known as the illusory correlation, believing that two things are related. And illusory correlation, believing that two things are related, is actually the foundation of stereotypes. And we rely on stereotyping because they help provide simplicity in a very complex world. So if we had to individuate each and every person we encountered, it would become exhausting and practically impossible process, right? We can’t individuate each and every person we come across with, we encounter, so instead we rely on stereotypes. The other thing about stereotypes, we think about them is very negative. There’s kind of a negative connotation to that word. But stereotypes are often not untrue or not incorrect.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds So women do tend to spend more time raising children throughout the world than do men. Southern Europeans do you spend on average less time in a work day than northern Europeans. Chinese American students do tend to do better at maths than Latino American students. These are stereotypes, and they’re often on average not incorrect. However, they are not always true, and if we rely on stereotypes they can be quite harmful to us as individuals and as a society. So why are stereotypes harmful? Well number one, if we have a stereotype– a pre-existing belief– we’re more likely to think that this characteristic is genetic or inborn rather than environmentally caused.

Skip to 2 minutes and 23 seconds And therefore, we because we believe it’s genetic we’re less likely to search for environmentally-based solutions. So for example, if I have a stereotype that women are just less good at maths than men, I’m more likely to believe that this is just the way women are. Women are just less good at maths than men, and I’m less likely to search for or seek solutions to why women, for example, do worse in maths and science classes than do men. I’m also more likely– I’m an HR professor, so I think about talent a lot and talent development to lot.

Skip to 2 minutes and 58 seconds If I rely on stereotypes, I’m more likely to ignore or dismiss talent in my environment because I judge people based on initial split second impressions, stereotypes which are often inaccurate. And along with today’s lecture I have a nice little video example to demonstrate this phenomenon. I think you’ll really like it. A third negative effect of stereotyping is what is known as stereotype threat. And this term was coined by Spencer and Steele, two psychologists. And in the initial study, they gave a difficult maths test to men and women who had equal maths experience and equal maths ability. So they were pre-tested to be equally good at maths.

Skip to 3 minutes and 41 seconds When these people, these participants, were told that men and women did equally well on this maths test, then men and women did equally well. But if before the test men and women were told that women actually perform less well on this test than do men, women actually did significantly worse on the test than men. So what they found in the study is that if we make negative stereotypes about ourselves salient, we will actually perform more poorly on various tasks related to the stereotype. Well why is that? It’s because our cognitive resources are so wrapped up in this negative stereotype that we can’t free those cognitive resources to actually work on the task.

Skip to 4 minutes and 23 seconds We can’t devote them to the task at hand. So given the negative effects of stereotyping, what can we actually do about them? What could we do to combat stereotyping or at least reduce them in the way that we think about the world? Well, exposure is a very good way to do this. So exposure is an important aspect of combating stereotypes. We tend to stereotype groups that we don’t have a lot of exposure to on a personal level. So for example, I’ve never been to Papua New Guinea, so the only thing I know about Papua New Guineans is what I know from stereotypes.

Skip to 4 minutes and 56 seconds So if I was to travel to Papua New Guinea, I would probably meet Papua New Guineans and realise that they were actually very diverse. They’re not stereotypic the way I imagine in my head. So the more we travel, the more we become globalised as a society, the less likely we are to rely on stereotypes. So that’s a positive part of globalisation, positive aspect of globalisation. Another thing that we can do is be sure not to prime others or make stereotypes about other people salient.

Skip to 5 minutes and 26 seconds So for example, if I’m at work it’s probably a good idea for me to not talk about how men are less emotionally sensitive than women because there actually will be a self-fulfilling prophecy, meaning that men actually will start to focus on the stereotype and perform less emotionally sensitive in work situations. It might also be a good idea for me not to talk about how women aren’t as good as men at maths. This is a negative stereotype. And women, as Spencer and Steele found, will actually perform worse on these sorts of tasks. The activities that I have attached to this lecture will help demonstrate some of the negative effects of stereotyping.

Skip to 6 minutes and 3 seconds As I said, I have a nice video for you to watch. You’re also going to take what’s called the IAT, or the Implicit Association Test, and the IAT will actually tell you how likely you are to stereotype people in certain domains. I think you’ll have a lot of fun taking the test and also seeing the results. I’ve talked about what we can do to combat some of the negative effects of complexity in our environment, namely stereotyping. In the next lecture I’m going to talk about how to combat the negative effects of uncertainty and complexity of our environments in general, given that they’re such an inevitable part of our lives.

Complexity & stereotyping

This lecture explains how we rely on stereotyping in complex situations. You can try the test that is mentioned in the next step.

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Decision Making in a Complex and Uncertain World

University of Groningen

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