Report on EASP Meeting: The Evolution, Emergence, Development, and Maintenance of Stereotypes
21.08.2019, by Tina Keil in meeting report
June 27-30th, 2019 at Castle Eyba/Saalfeld, Germany; Organizers: Stefanie Hechler, Deliah Bolesta, & Thomas Kessler (Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena)
Aims of the workshop
This meeting aimed at bringing together researchers interested in the (social) phenomenon of stereotypes. People treat groups and their members according to their stereotypes, use stereotypes to justify their behavior, and acquire stereotypes to become accepted by others. Stereotypes may facilitate social interactions, but also instigate social distance and conflict. A comprehensive understanding of stereotypes that people have about their own and other groups means identifying their biases, potentials, and risks.
The formation of stereotypes may be contingent on the information distribution in our environment. However, certain sets of information are used to categorize some groups but not others (e.g., living in contrast to non-living beings; persons versus non-persons). There is also support indicating that stereotypes contrast categories, or differentiate one’s ingroup from particular outgroups. Are stereotypes thus accurate, or do they distort our perception of the social world? How are social groups seen and how do they want to be seen? Would considering this help to solve social conflicts? In the meeting, we aimed at discussing current approaches to stereotypes, including principles that guide the evolution of stereotypes, formation and maintenance of stereotypes through general perceptual mechanisms, the (strategic) use of stereotypes about ingroups and outgroups, and their consequences for intra- and intergroup relations.
Structure of the workshop
The participants spent three days in the beautiful castle of Eyba near Saalfeld in Thuringia, Germany. The schedule included three key note presentations, research presentations with discussions, a final round table discussion, common meals and social events. The presentations were schedule to allow for detailed feedback, for asking and answering in-depths questions, and developing ideas for future research after each talk. Additionally, coffee breaks, meals and evening get-togethers were used for ongoing discussions on the research topics. On Saturday night, a Volleyball tournament was organized, including socializing time in the castle’s large garden.
Overall, 33 researchers participated at the meeting. Of those eight were professors, eleven were postdoctoral researchers and nine were PhD-students, two Master students, and three bachelor students. 13 participants were male, and 20 were female. The researchers work in nine different countries: Poland, Turkey, Belgium, Israel, Sweden, England, the U.S., Portugal and Germany. Overall, we received more than twice as many abstracts than we were able to accept. This gave us the opportunity to choose high quality abstracts in respect to the diversity of topics and scientific perspectives on the topic. Additionally, we emphasized diversity in terms of gender, and nationality of participants
Topics covered by the workshop
The covered topics represented the state of the art on stereotypes. In the meeting we addressed questions of how stereotypes evolve, how they develop within humans and society, how their content is determined, what function they have for individuals and groups, and their consequences in societies and in intergroup relations. Overall, various targets of stereotypes were addressed, including social minorities, such as women, elder persons, political and ethnical minorities, and experimental outgroups. Moreover the presentation and discussion covered a variety of groups and intergroup relations that instigate stereotypes, such as societal conflicts, migration, numerical and novel categories.
We had three key notes presenting different perspectives on stereotypes: Vincent Yzerbyt (Catholic University of Louvain, Belguim) presented a dimensional compensation model of stereotypes. He presented an overview of study lines that brought together the work on fundamental dimensions of stereotypes (warmth and competence model) and the research on intergroup relations. They showed that intergroup perception often leads to compensation between the two dimensions. Christian Unkelbach (University of Cologne, Germany) talked about how formal models with an environmental perspective explain the emergence of specific stereotypes. Specifically, he presented data on the Evaluative Information Ecology (EvE). The model explains how the structure in the environment (i.e., frequency and similarity of positive and negative information) influences the emergence of negative stereotypes about novel groups and minorities. Juliane Degner (University of Hamburg, Germany) presented theory and research on children’s mental representation of novel social groups. The presented theories and research addressed how stereotypes and prejudice are rooted in childhood socialization experiences.
Sixteen presentations from international researchers covered these topics, for example “Applying an affordance management approach to understand the influence of fundamental motives on stereotype perceptions”, “Stereotypes as historical accidents: Images of social class in post-communist versus capitalist societies”, “The distribution of trust”, “Bridging contexts: The interrelated effects of parents, peers, classrooms on development of anti-immigrant attitudes in adolescence”, “Multipurpose use of ethnic and religious minority stereotypes by national majority”, and “A new perspective on gender-stereotype content and implications for understanding the poor fit between women and leadership”.
In the various presentations and discussions during the sessions, the breaks, the meals and social events, the participants engaged in many fruitful dialogues. For example, we discussed the evolution and emergence of stereotypes from intrapsychic to ecological perspectives. Moreover, the development of social categories and stereotype-content in children and adults was addressed. Various participants stressed the relevance of language in perpetuating stereotypes. We discussed how the stereotype-content model (warmth/competence) determines the formation of stereotypes and its implications for the research of stereotypes. We discussed other models of stereotype content, for example from research in intergroup relations and cognitive psychology. Moreover, we have seen that stereotypes are influenced by the individual preferences and ideology, by parents in adolescence, as well as society and authorities. We also examined the influence of intergroup context, and that the self as part of one group and not the other group instigates stereotypes. Here also the intergroup relations play a major role, such as political conflicts in Turkey lead to (instrumental) perpetuation and dispersion of negative stereotypes. We focused on how stereotypes developed through history and changing societal contexts, how they are targets of social change, and in what way we encounter them in our societies today. And finally, we discussed strategies how to overcome, avoid or change negative stereotypes and prejudice through creativity, multiculturalism and colorblindness, and learning the meaning of social labels. Overall, the psychological research has come to extensive knowledge about stereotypes from the majority groups, and less from a minority or stereotype target point of view. Moreover, more research on the accuracy and use of stereotypes would be needed. Nevertheless, the total of presentations, perspectives and expertise at the conference was able to draw a thorough picture of the phenomenon and its multifaceted antecedents and consequences.
Sponsors: European Association of Social Psychology (EASP), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany