is a commonly held public belief about specific social groups, or types of
individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "
" are often confused with many other different
meanings. Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups, based on some prior
A stereotype can be deemed 'positive', or 'negative'
Stereotypes can have a negative and positive impact on individuals. Joshua Aronson and Claude
M. Steele have done research on the psychological effects of stereotyping, particularly its effect
on African-Americans and women.
They argue that psychological research has shown that
competence is highly responsive to situation and interactions with others.
They cite, for
example, a study which found that bogus feedback to college students dramatically affected their
IQ test performance, and another in which students were either praised as very smart,
congratulated on their hard work, or told that they scored high. The group praised as smart
performed significantly worse than the others. They believe that there is an 'innate ability bias'.
These effects are not just limited to minority groups. Mathematically competent white males,
mostly math and engineering students, were asked to take a difficult math test. One group was
told that this was being done to determine why Asians were scoring better. This group performed
significantly worse than the other group.
Possible prejudicial effects of stereotypes are:
Justification of ill-founded prejudices or ignorance
Unwillingness to rethink one's attitudes and behavior towards stereotyped group
Preventing some people of stereotyped groups from entering or succeeding in activities or
The effects of stereotyping can fluctuate, but for the most part they are negative, and not always
apparent until long periods of time have passed. Over time, some victims of negative stereotypes
display self-fulfilling prophecy behavior, in which they assume that the stereotype represents
norms to emulate. Negative effects may include forming inaccurate opinions of people,
scapegoating, erroneously judgmentalism, preventing emotional identification, distress, and
impaired performance. Stereotyping painfully reminds those being judged of how society views
Stereotypes of Native Americans
Native Americans have been stereotyped by others in both a negative and positive sense. There
has long been an admiration of Native Americans as fitting the archetype of the
within European thought, stemming from a cultural sympathy grounded within the post-
These positive portrayals of Native Americans as
being noble, peaceful people, who lived in harmony with nature and each other continue within
modern culture, e.g. the 1990 film
Dances with Wolves
Over time, as settlers spread west, Native Americans were seen as obstacles and their image