Intersectionality and Stereotyping

Project: Research project

Project Details


Intersectionality and Stereotyping Race, Sex, and Age Stereotyping: An Ecological Life History Approach Project Summary Peoples stereotypes are often presumed to be simple; they are not. As people move throughout their social worlds, the stereotypes they apply to others are based not on age or sex or race, but rather on specific interactions of race, age, and sexinteractions unaccounted for by traditional theoretical approaches to stereotyping and prejudice. This proposals aim is to better understand the nuanced manner in which social perceivers employ age, sex, race, and ecological circumstances to understand others. Life History Theorya conceptual framework from the biological scienceshighlights the roles that age and sex, in interaction with the local ecology, play in shaping peoples goals, capacities, and behavioral strategies. We propose that it can also be usefully applied to help explain not only why perceived age, sex, and race are used so readily to understand others, but also why people possess many of the specific stereotypes they do. The proposal develops an initial set of implications of this approach: (1) Perceived age and sex are not separable categories but rather are configured interactively, as a unit. AgeSex is a fundamental way people think about others. (2) People have stereotypes about individuals from desperation ecologies (in which resources are scarce and unpredictable in their availability) versus hopeful ecologies (in which resources are sufficient and stable over time); these exist as AgeSexEcology stereotypes. (3) The specific contents of AgeSexEcology stereotypes are universalheld by people of different racial, gender, and age backgrounds across the U.S., and by people in divergent societies throughout the world. (4) Because race serves as a cue to ecology in the U.S., Americans stereotypes about racial groups track their stereotypes about these groups home ecologies, generating AgeSexRace stereotypes that map onto AgeSexEcology stereotypes. (5) Desperation and hopeful ecologies leave different marks on individuals, which social perceivers use as cues to infer an individuals home ecology. (6) The application of race stereotypes to a target will be reversed when the target presents raceinconsistent ecology cues, and that these stereotype application reversals can have implications for interracial behaviors ranging from economic exchanges to self-fulfilling prophecies. A series of studies are proposed, across three years, to investigate implications #2, 3, 4, and 6. Intellectual Merit. This research will make several important intellectual contributions: (1) It expands theory on person perception and impression formation in innovative, transformative ways to incorporate principles from life history theory, thereby generating novel, nuanced hypotheses. (2) It provides rigorous empirical tests of novel, theoretically-derived hypotheses, employing a variety of methods. (3) It connects knowledge about the ecologies and socioeconomic circumstances in which humans live to knowledge about the stereotypes people have of others and the processes through which people come to understand others goals, behavioral strategies, and capacities. And (4) it builds new theoretical links between sub-areas of social psychology (social cognition, stereotyping and prejudice, and intergroup relations), anthropology, and the life sciences. Broader Impacts. This research will (1) yield new findings to be disseminated in prominent scientific outlets, with high potential to influence thinking not just in psychology but also in other disciplines that find life history theory a valuable tool but have yet to extend it to predict social perception of behavior (e.g., animal behavior, anthropology), (2) suggest novel interventionsbased on the manipulation of ecology information and cuesto reduce the extent to which pernicious race stereotypes are applied to individuals, (3) increase scientific understanding of age and sex stereotyping, as well as prejudice, discrimination, and intergroup relations, and (4) facilitate interdisciplinary research training for student team-members, many of whom are female and/or minority group members. Regarding this last point, undergraduates who have worked on this research team have gone on to attend top graduate programs in social psychology and other scientific disciplines, and several are now in faculty positions. Moreover, multiple graduate students who have worked with us have moved into faculty positions at major universitieswith several having earned early tenure and/or research awards and all continuing to publish in top journals.
Effective start/end date8/1/147/31/18


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $414,963.00


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