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Rather than assuming that human cognition is statistically naive, an alternative explanation is that people are unconsciously Bayesian and they normally assume that a description identifying learnt implicit associations is accurate and diagnostic unless they consciously decide otherwise. Outside of the psychological laboratory it may be that a limited description is all the information people have to go on.

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Gender Stereotypes | Annual Review of Psychology

However, in an encounter with the specific person, they will learn new information to adjust this view if the prediction is not supported. Ben could be prejudiced against the social group believing the stereotype but, alternatively, he might be a fair-minded person who believes that the university is prejudiced against the group in its procedures. Also the university might have rejected Ben either as it is prejudiced in its selection or, alternatively, has a fair-assessment system and Ben is rejected for reasons unrelated to his group membership.

A key point to note here is that the predictive brain operates on the state of the world as it is experienced and not on the state of the world as we believe it should be. Working towards gender equality and encouraging more women into engineering is a key aim in many Western societies, but that admirable social and political goal should not lead us to misunderstand the unconscious working of the predictive brain. A second important point is that the Bayesian brain seeks predictive validity through the picking up of regularities to form associations on the basis of experience.

The predictive brain, as a perceptual mechanism, is directed solely by the minimization of surprisal. It does not make a moral judgement or provide an explanation for the state of the world. It simply seeks to make accurate predictions. In a study on language learning, Perfors and Navarro argued that the Bayesian brain learns through a process of iterative learning from other members of the community. Whereas previous researchers have argued that it is solely the structure of language that structures the meanings acquired, Perfors and Navarro argued that the structure of the external world and the meanings within it will also influence the process.

Thus, semantic knowledge acquired will be shaped by the meaning structure communicated. As long as the things people talk about reflect the relationships of those things in the external world then the semantic relationships learnt will reflect the meanings present in the external world.

Thus, knowledge of the relationship between concepts will be acquired from the meanings communicated by others. Furthermore, the proposal of a Bayesian brain does not require that it operates in an optimal or rational manner—simply that a Bayesian model best represents its behaviour Tauber et al. For the predictive brain, the degree to which implicit stereotypes are learnt and employed depends on the probabilities with which the implicit associations between the social category and an attribute are expected and experienced in communication.

It is this world of the social perceiver that is considered now. Implicit stereotypes, like other implicit associations can be viewed as cultural knowledge or folk wisdom that the person acquires through their experience in a culture Bruner, The idea that stereotypical associations are cultural in origin was proposed in the early work on stereotypes, but has tended to be ignored in the focus on the fallacy or bias of individual cognition. Journalist and political commentator Walter Lippmann is usually seen as stimulating the academic study of stereotyping with his book Public Opinion Hinton, To illustrate this, we can examine the origin of the associations identified in the Princeton studies, discussed at the beginning of this article, by considering the example of the English.

As Hinton has argued, the selected attributes reflect the notion of the English gentleman, a common representation of the Englishman in the American media of the first half of the twentieth century, and hence familiar to the exclusively male, upper-class Princeton student participants who, if they had encountered English people it is likely that they would be from the same class demographic as themselves.

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It is also likely that these participants did not consider nor were they asked to do so a range of categories of English people, such as women or the working classes, so, not surprisingly, tended to focus on the specific and familiar representation of the English defined for them by their culture to paraphrase Lippmann. By , the image of the English gentleman had become rather archaic and even a figure of fun in both the British and American media Hinton, and the selected English attributes had changed.

Even so, some students refused to do the task in and Brown et al. To perform the task with no information except the category name, the students may have simply drawn on attributes they knew to be commonly circulating about the English in their culture. Yet this does not mean that the students viewed all English people as sportsmanlike. However, the sportsmanlike English gentleman was a familiar trope in American popular culture at the time, typified by actor Ronald Colman in Hollywood movies such as The Dark Angel , , and Bulldog Drummond , A person with no personal antipathy to lawyers, and well-aware that they are a highly regulated profession of mostly honest people, might make the prediction that when a lawyer character appears in a popular crime drama that they will probably be crooked from the experience of lawyers in famous movies such as The Godfather series, —, and television programs such as Breaking Bad , —, along with the spin-off series about a crooked lawyer, Better Call Saul , As Devine has argued, well-learnt associations picked up during socialization form implicit stereotypes even for the individual seeking non-prejudiced views.

It is argued here that the predictive brain model provides the mechanism for this. Yet culture is neither monolithic nor fixed and unchanging. People are active in the construction both of their social world and their media environment Livingstone, ; Burr, People have links of acquaintanceship, friendship, etc. Within any society, there will be different social networks of this kind communicating different social representations about social groups. According to Moscovici , it is these shared representations that define a culture or subcultural group.

Different cultural groups will differ ideologically through their position in society and the representations that circulate in the communication within their social network. In the communication within any social network there will be regular and consistent associations between social groups and attributes, which will be picked up by it members, through the working of the predictive brain. The extent to which individuals share implicit associations will depend on the hegemonic social representations within the society across cultural groups Gillespie, , such as a positive belief in democracy and a negative view of communism, which are prevalent in the wider social institutions within a nation, and examined in the sociological study of stereotypes for example, Pickering, The role of stereotypes in communication within a social network was demonstrated by Kashima and colleagues Kashima and Yeung, ; Kashima et al.

The results showed that stereotype-consistent information was emphasized. Even though stereotype-inconsistent information attracted attention it was not necessarily passed on. Thus, the story became more stereotypical and consistent in the serial retelling. Within a social network common understandings are developed via the use of stereotypes.


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Members of the culture assume a knowledge of the stereotype in other group members, which facilitates social interaction, but potentially also helps to maintain the stereotype, even in the face of inconsistent information. The complex dynamics of the individual within a social network for example, Christakis and Fowler, needs to be considered in investigating the formation, transmission and maintenance of implicit stereotypes.

In the modern world of the twenty-first century, the options available for people to construct their social environments have radically increased Giddens, The media has rapidly expanded through multiple television channels, a proliferation of media outlets, and the development of social media via the internet.


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  • While this offers the potential for people to engage with a diversity of representation and counter-stereotypical information, it also allows people to remain in an ideological subculture, communicating with like-minded people where specific representations of cultural others are constantly being circulated unchallenged within the social network. In terms of the predictive brain, implicit associations will develop from the consistent messages people receive in their everyday lives.

    If certain implicit stereotypes are deemed unacceptable then it will only be when people experience consistent counter-stereotypical information over a long period of time that these associations will be probabilistically undermined. Over the last 30 years stereotype research has focused on implicit stereotypes, particularly using the IAT, which have been interpreted as revealing an implicit or unconscious cognitive bias, even for the consciously fair-minded person.

    Despite research questioning the predictive validity of the IAT as a method of revealing unconscious prejudice for example, Oswald et al. According to the predictive brain model, when the culture changes then the implicit stereotypes of its members will change albeit slowly for some associations. Therefore, to properly understand the nature of implicit stereotypes, the cognitive research needs to be combined with the study of the dynamics of culture, to understand the specific associations prevalent in the communication within a culture and their implicit influence on the members of that culture.

    Palgrave Communications. I worked with the following data. Addison-Wesley: Reading, MA. Harper and Row: New York. Psychological Science ; 25 9 : — Bargh JA Unconscious thought theory and its discontents: A critique of the critiques. Social Cognition ; 29 6 : — Bargh JA The cognitive monster: The case against controllability of automatic stereotype effects. In: Chaiken S and Trope Y eds. Dual Process Theories in Social Psychology. Guilford: New York, pp — Current Directions in Psychological Science ; 15 1 : 1—4. Brown R Social Psychology. Collier-Macmillan: London. Bruner JS Acts of Meaning.

    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience ; 4 25 : 1— Social Justice Research ; 23 4 : — Clark A Perceiving as predicting. Perception and Its Modalities. Oxford University Press: New York, pp 23— Clark A Whatever next?

    Beliefs about the world should be expected to be accurate

    Predictive brains, situated agents, and the future of cognitive science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences ; 36 3 : — Psychological Review ; 82 6 : — Journal of Experimental Psychology: General ; 9 : — Devine PG Stereotypes and prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology ; 48 6 : — Dual-process Theories in Social Psychology.

    In: Nelson TD ed. Handbook of Prejudice, Sereotyping, and Discrimination.

    Stereotypes and Stereotyping

    Taylor and Francis: New York, pp 61— Uncovering behavioral strategies. Journal of the American Statistical Society ; 90 : — Fox R Prejudice and the unfinished mind: A new look at an old failing. Psychological Inquiry ; 3 2 : — Social Psychology Quarterly ; 46 1 : 23— A historical perspective on current neuroscience literature. Neuropsychologia ; 53 , — Polity Press: Cambridge, UK.

    Gigerenzer G and Gaissmaier W Heuristic decision making. Annual Review of Psychology ; 62 , — Gilbert GM Stereotype persistence and change among college students. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology ; 46 2 : — Gillespie A Social representations, alternative representations and semantic barriers. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour ; 38 4 : — Psychological Review ; 1 : 4— Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ; 4 : — Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ; 74 6 : — Meta-analysis of predictive validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ; 97 1 : 17— Vintage Books: New York.

    Routledge: London. Psychology Press: Hove, UK. Oxford University Press: New York. Kahneman D Thinking, Fast and Slow. Penguin Books: London. Kahneman D and Tversky A On the psychology of prediction. Psychological Review ; 80 4 : — The chapter presents techniques of stereotype measurement.


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    • The chapter presents the structural approach that has proved to be informative in promoting an understanding of why stereotypes maintain themselves even in the face of conflicting information, and in predicting how and when they will change. In terms of stereotype change, the structural approach suggests methods of changing stereotypes that go beyond those offered by traditional models of stereotyping.

      Gender Stereotypes and Stereotyping

      The chapter discusses the current limitations of and the possible future for the abstractionist approach, by working in two directions—that is, a micro-analytic and macro-analytic approach. We use cookies to help provide and enhance our service and tailor content and ads. By continuing you agree to the use of cookies.

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      Neil Macrae, Ph. His current research interests focus on the role of inhibitory processes in stereotyping, behavioral self-regulation, and mental control. Charles Stangor, Ph.