January 31, 2016

Using counter-stereotypes to boost flexible thinking

Stereotyping can have all kinds of harmful consequences. This article shows that people who are subject to stereotyping can be hindered in their performance by it. Also, the article shows that stereotyping can stand in the way of an fair and accurate assessment of stereotyped individuals. In this article you can read that stereotypes can affect people at a very young age, often even without them being aware this influence. This article shows evidence that not only negative stereotypes may impede performance but also positive stereotypes.

An interesting new line of research appears to point to way of limiting the negative effects of stereotyping. Gocłowska et al. (2012) reasoned that stereotyping constrain flexible thinking and studied whether exposing people to counter examples of stereotypes might stimulate flexible thinking. In their study that was what happened. Here is the abstract of the study:
Can counter-stereotypes boost flexible thinking?
Abstract: To reduce prejudice psychologists design interventions requiring people to think of counter-stereotypes (i.e., people who defy stereotypic expectations—a strong woman, a Black President). Grounded in the idea that stereotypes constrain the ability to think flexibly, we propose that thinking of counter-stereotypes can have benefits that extend beyond the goal of prejudice reduction—in particular to tasks measuring cognitive flexibility and creative performance. Findings supported this conjecture. In Experiment 1 priming a gender counter-stereotype enhanced cognitive flexibility. This effect could not be attributed to changes in mood. In Experiment 2, using a gender-independent manipulation, priming various social counter-stereotypes brought a boost to creative performance. We discuss implications of these extended benefits of counter-stereotypic thinking for developing future prejudice-reduction interventions.

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