Monday, October 4, 2010

How Stereotypes Defeat the Stereotyped


This article talks about the new study of older individuals being affected in a negatively way because of stereotypes, and also how easy stereotype threats compel people to work against themselves. The article goes on to talk about how just reminding older individuals that they are members of a stigmatized group, really dampens their performance upon a test given. Older individuals taking the same test that were not reminded of their stigmatized group did significantly better on the same test. The study shows that the individuals that were told and reminded of their "elderly" stereotype, worried about their advanced age, which intern affected their performance. Interestingly, people between the ages of 60 and 70 were far more susceptible to stereotype threats than those ages 71 to 82. The article explains that this is because those people have just entered their 7th decade are are more sensitive to the stereotype than those who have already been considered old for a decade. Recent research has found that positive reenforcement about one's stereotype may just be as effective as any negative stereotype threat.

16 comments:

  1. First of all, when I saw the title of the post, I expected something easier to imagine such as racism or sexism or nationalism. This is very new and fresh perspective that I never thought of.


    I partially agree with the article. I'm a painting major student and due to the slow pace of this field, there are many old people. They don't really get threatened by young artists or students because they know it takes a large amount of time to achieve certin amount of carrier. Even so, I agree that this case applies to the most of the society. My parents are not even 60 and they are already scared of being old. They have nothing related to art. Whenever I get to talk to the old people outside of art, they always complain about getting old. They say it as a joke, but repeating it like a habit shows us that it is one of the major concerns they have. Therefore my conclusion is that this case can be a great example for the topic, but there are always exceptions caused by the specificity of certain fields. I guess other fields that share the same characteristcs would be.. maybe writing or classical music or politics? ..where older people are usually better.

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  2. That is a good point. I'd be very interested to see how this study would be framed if the research had been conducted by a Collectivist society, rather than Individualist. Collectivist society typically reveres older family members as the wise family leaders - how would they analyze these findings? Or, would the results be completely different than what was found here? Just some thoughts.

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  3. “You are only as good as you expected” seem so true in this research. People define them self by what others told them. I think I have personally experienced this “power of stereotype”. Before I came to United State, I studied in an international school, therefore my English is a little bit above average back home, and therefore I feel more confident to speak English back then, because I was stereotyped as a student from international school, but later when I came to America, among all these native English speaker, I consciously stereotyped myself as an Asian, and people often remind me that “it’s ok, English is not your native language” or “you have accent” kind of thing, which make me feel like I can hardly speak any English after staying here for almost three year. Stereotyping can increase and decrease a person’s confidence at the things they are doing, even if some time it’s only a lie or merely being ignorance.

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  4. It's sad how a simple reminder of a stereotype can completely diminish someone's confidence. And I completely believe that when your confidence is down, your intelligence fails, too. I read a similar study before that tested how stereotypes affected white and black students in academic performance. Many of the black students believed in their stereotype and performed noticeably worse than the white students. If no one knew about stereotypes defeating the stereotyped, then people would just assume that white students are more intelligent than black students. I find that very unsettling.

    Also, it's very interesting to hear Louis's experience as a student from another country. This reminded me of the questions my boss was asking our new intern yesterday. She stereotyped him as being less intelligent because he was a foreign student from Vietnam, which made me cringe. He was in fact very intelligent, and she was the ignorant one. Stereotypes really wound us, and it is disconcerting how we believe the stereotypes against ourselves. All of us should remember: Be kind to yourself.

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  5. I found this research really intriguing and I would be really interested to see if the study would work on other groups of people not just the elderly. I have also personally experienced the power of stereotyping. I was born in England and there I spoke with a British accent and I was confident with the way I talked. However, when I moved to the United States I stereotyped myself as the international student and the odd one out. People would often remind me of my accent, people would also notice when I named an object differently. This made me feel like I was an intruder and that the way I spoke was wrong. Therefore, I lost my confidence and tried fit in with the majority by adapting my accent to that of an American. Stereotyping and can increase and decrease a person’s confidence and I am a great example.

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  6. This reminds of an experience I had when I was in 7th grade and my gym class was playing kickball outside. As I went up to for my turn to kick the ball, I slipped and completely missed. This prompted a classmate to yell, "Stupid Gook!" (a pejorative name for Vietnamese/Asians). The rest of the game I continued to perform terribly and clumsily, because I couldn't stop thinking about what he said. At the time I hadn't realized it but it was a perfect example of stereotype threat in full effect.

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  7. I wasn't surprised by the results of this study, since its been proven how negative thoughts (and in this case stereotypes) can affect a person's behavior and thoughts. I once read about a study that showed many women have a natural instinct to believe that they cannot accomplish success by themselves. Meaning, women often are made to feel that their achievments up to that point have come about through some sort of fluke, such as luck or another influence. This has to do with how stereotypes affect how self perception, particularly in groups that have historically been discriminated against. I know that I and other women I know make excuses for their successes, and also for their failures, based on how society views us.

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  8. I agree with Rebecca, it would be interesting to compare the results between a collectivist and individualist society. It would be really interesting to do a study on different stereotype threats and compare those results. Who is affected more by stereotype threats and how much does it affect their performance?

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  9. Negative behavior and thoughts clearly influences a stereotype. Behaviors like accents, physical body language and clothing perpetuate the stigma of an outsider group. I know I have been negatively stereotyped by the way I have dressed and carried myself in the past and it has changed the way I feel about myself. I do not want to be categorized in the many hindering classifications or genres that my generation deal with (hipster, punk, hippie, etc). I would be interested to see this study done with different groups of people beside elderly. I do believe that age differences do cause a lot of negative stereotypes between younger and elderly people.

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  10. This is definitely an interesting article. I agree with some of my classmates who said that when the stereotype of the old people losing their memory was presented before the test, their confidence was lowered, and their performance suffered because of the lower confidence. Another possible way to look at the results is that we sometimes subliminally play into stereotypes, and almost use them as scapegoats. If a high school math teacher tells a football player, a common “dumb” stereotype, that he just doesn’t have a mathematical mind, I bet the student would study less for the next exam, even though in reality he could probably master the concepts with some extra time. I guess that both ways I interpreted the article can be reduced to lower confidence leading to poorer performance.

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  11. This study shows that stereotypes can really effect people's self-confidence and bring different results from their performances. Although the experiment only proves that negative stereotype results the people's bad perfomances, it also suggests positive stereotypes can also result their good performances. After reading this article, I learned how important it is to think positively to bring my own success and happiness and even others'.

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  12. This is an interesting study, and I feel as if I witnessed something similar when I used to go to the urban district public schools in my hometown. Alot of the kids in my school had grown up in places like the projects and my school was predominantly hispanic. I remember that even at a young age, that most of the higher class community and the school administration treated us like we were a bunch of dumb delinquents with no hope in our future (for just one example, one time they took a bunch of 5th graders on a field trip to a prison, and by the end of the field trip most of the class was crying because the entire time they were basically being chastised and being told that if they act bad that this is where they'll end up). In New Jersey, they also give out a minimum standards test every 4 years (one test at the end of 4th grade, one at the end of 8th grade and one at the end of 11th grade). During the years we were supposed to take these tests, we would spend that entire school year learning how to pass these MINIMUM STANDARDS tests because they were all so worried that we weren't going to pass and therefore wouldn't make money for the school system (the state gives the school system money for each student that passes the test.)
    The whole thing was just so degrading. I can't help but wonder what my classmates could have achieved if they just treated us with a positive attitude and at least pretended that they believed we could succeed in something other than a minimum standards test. Its so hard to want to work hard in school when you're constantly being treated like you're incapable of going anywhere in life.
    Im not sure if I explained myself clearly, but Im trying to link the idea that knocking a group of people's confidence down with negative stereotypes will cause them to perform weaker, and that this was something that happened all too often in my school system, causing an entire student body to perform poorly, sadly creating a vicious cycle of negative stereotypes and poor performance.

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  13. I found the study to be interesting but somewhat predictable. It is already understood that the effects of stereotypes on people are very powerful. People strive to belong to a group or to not stand out negatively on their own. When a negative stereotype about a characteristic of an individuals is presented when there are other individuals that do not share that characteristic involved, that individual does not want to own up to their trait. So when the elderly were informed that they were being studied for the effects of aging on memory, they imagined the other control group of test subjects to be much younger. Through common sense the elderly understood that a mind of a 40 year old would most likely be sharper than that of a 70 year olds because it is less aged. Therefore the elderly feels that they are not the desirable group of the study and feel negative about themselves. This negative feeling hinders their level of performance on the test. Lastly i found it interesting that when presented, a very strong and relevant positive stereotype could do just the opposite effect. I would like to read more studies about the positive case.

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  14. (I guess, in lieu of an article for this week, I'll comment here.)

    I agree with Young Min that it's interesting to see stereotypes examined through the lens of age rather than that of race or sex or sexual orientation. On the one hand, it's probably easier for the intended audience to focus on the results of the study if the study itself doesn't trigger engrained attitudes about racism or sexism. On the other hand, though, maybe this article will also force people to recognize that ageism exists: compared to other forms of discrimination, ageism is rarely (if ever) mentioned, and people's attitudes toward the eldery perforce change over time as they themselves become members of the disadvantaged group. That last point may be why the "younger" elderly people in the study were more affected by the self-fulfilling prophecy: they may have been experiencing cognitive dissonance between their previous attitudes toward the elderly and the current state of their bodies.

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  15. "you're only as good as you expect to be"

    i think this quote from the article does a good job of summarizing the conclusions of this study. what is verbally suggested as the general expectation for a given group of people (old people, gender groups, racial groups, etc) becomes the standard that is lived up to. This self defeating, or in the positive case, self fulfilling prophecy is an intrinsic psychological concept that is actually very simple to understand; as humans we react to the social cues around us, and are motivated and demotivated primarily by the expectations that others have of us. It is too bad that so often a stereotype creates a self defeating prophecy, like many of the examples given in the article as well as experiences discussed above, can change the trajectory of a persons actions after coming to knowledge of their stigmatization within a stereotyped group.

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  16. Hey Professor Winkel,
    I don't mean to post this here but I've been trying to contact you at your rwinkel@pratt.edu email for the past week and I haven't gotten a response. I was wondering if you could check your pratt email or give me a different email to contact you with? Thanks. :)

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