In this section of the review, we consider specific strategies that have been investigated as moderators of automatic stereotypes. These strategies fall roughly into two sub-categories: stereotype suppression and the promotion of counterstereotypes.
Suppression. If told to reduce their use of stereotypes, many people would probably try to banish such thoughts from their minds. Although some researchers have found that suppression does not reduce automatic stereotypes—and in fact may amplify them (Galinsky & Moskowitz, 2000; Macrae et al., 1994)—other studies indicate that suppression strategies can be successful. Gollwitzer and Schaal (1998) reported that a goal to suppress stereotypes works if it is accompanied by a specific implementation intention. In their study, participants were motivated to judge others in a fair and unbiased manner. In addition, some participants were instructed to form the specific implementation intention, “And whenever I see Ina, I will ignore her gender.” In a subsequent primed Stroop task, participants' automatic gender stereotypes were measured in response to the primes “Ina” and “Bea.” As predicted, participants who formed the implementation intention produced less automatic gender stereotypes in response to the specified person (e.g., Ina). The strategy was very specific in its influence, however, and had no effect on responses to the other group member.
Kawakami, Dovidio, Moll, Hermsen, and Russin (2000) also demonstrated that certain types of suppression can be successful in moderating automatic stereotypes. Specifically, participants who had been trained to say “no” to stereotypic events and “yes” to nonstereotypic events produced significantly lower levels of automatic stereotypes, compared to that produced by participants who had received no training or who had been trained to affirm the stereotypes. In addition, this “stereotype negation” training was successful in moderating automatic stereotypes of skinheads and automatic race stereotypes; its effects were observed on both a primed Stroop task and a sequential priming task; the moderation persisted over a 24-hr period of time. The only drawback to this strategy was that it was not effective unless the participants had engaged in extensive practice.
The promotion of counterstereotypes. A different strategy aimed at reducing automatic stereotypes is to focus on counterstereotypes. That is, instead of attempting to suppress stereotypes, perceivers can work to promote opposing counterstereotypic associations that could challenge the dominance of stereotypes in information processing.
In the first test of such a strategy, Blair and Banaji (1996) manipulated participants' expectancies during a sequential priming task. One half of the participants were instructed to expect stereotypic prime-target trials, and the other participants were told to expect counterstereotypic trials. In truth, all participants received both stereotypic and counterstereotypic trials, with the expected trial type occurring only 63% of the time. Furthermore, the participants completed two blocks of trials, one block with a 350-ms SOA and one block with a 2000-ms SOA. Responses on the former block of trials are of particular interest because the short amount of time provides greater certainty that the outcome is based on an automatic process (see earlier).
The results of this test showed that the expectancy strategies had a significant influence on the participants' automatic stereotypes. When the SOA was only 350-ms, the counterstereotype expectancy produced significantly lower levels of automatic stereotypes than the stereotype expectancy. Not surprisingly, this difference was substantially larger with the 2000-ms SOA, which allowed for the greater influence of controlled processes. A follow-up study examined the counterstereotype expectancy at both 250-ms and 2000-ms SOAs and showed that (a) once again the expectancy was much more effective with the 2000-ms SOA, and (b) even with a 250-ms SOA, the expectancy prevented the participants from producing a significant level of automatic stereotypes. Taken together, the results of these two experiments suggest that people may be able to moderate automatic stereotypes by intentionally activating counterstereotypes.
Blair, Ma, and Lenton (2001) recently examined mental imagery as another strategy to promote counterstereotypes. Prior research has shown that mental imagery increases the accessibility of the imagined event (e.g., Carroll, 1978; Gregory, Cialdini, & Carpenter, 1982). By the same token, Blair et al. argued that counterstereotypic mental imagery ought to increase the accessibility of counterstereotypic associations, and thereby decrease automatic stereotypes. In four separate tests, the participants were asked to spend approximately 5 min creating a mental image of a (counterstereotypic) strong woman and then complete a measure of their automatic gender stereotypes. In each test, the participants who had engaged in the counterstereotypic mental imagery produced substantially weaker automatic stereotypes, compared to participants who, (a) engaged in neutral mental imagery, (b) did not engage in any imagery, (c) imagined a weak woman, (d) imagined a strong man, or (e) attempted to suppress their stereotypes during the task. Moreover, the moderating influence of the counterstereotypic mental imagery was demonstrated through response times on the IAT, word detection sensitivity (d') on the GNAT (for female participants), and recognition false alarms in a false memory-induction procedure. The consistency of the effects and the variety of outcomes that were moderated suggest that mental imagery can have a powerful influence on automatic processes.
Taking a somewhat different approach, Dasgupta and Greenwald (2001) showed that exposure to counterstereotypic group members can also alter automatic prejudice. In their research, participants were exposed either to admired Black Americans and disliked White Americans (e.g., Bill Cosby and Timothy McVeigh), disliked Black Americans and admired White Americans (e.g., O. J. Simpson and John F. Kennedy), or nonracial stimuli (control). Following that exposure, the participants completed an IAT measure of automatic racial prejudice both immediately and 24 hr later. Dasgupta and Greenwald found that participants exposed to positive Black group members produced less automatic prejudice toward Blacks, compared to participants who had been exposed to negative group members or to nonracial stimuli. Moreover, this moderation continued to be significant when tested 24 hr later. A second study replicated the effect for the moderation of automatic age prejudice.
Finally, it is worth noting that the moderation of automatic group attitudes is not restricted to laboratory manipulations. Specifically, Rudman, Ashmore, and Gary (2001) showed that participating in a semester-long diversity course can alter students' automatic associations. In two quasi-experimental studies, students enrolled in a “prejudice and conflict” seminar exhibited significant reductions across the semester in their automatic stereotypes and prejudice toward Blacks, whereas students enrolled in control courses (e.g., research methods) showed no such reduction.
Summary. In discussing evidence for automatic stereotypes, there have been suggestions that perceivers' specific goals and strategies have no influence on such processes (Bargh, 1999; Devine, 1989). The studies reviewed in this section provide strong evidence that such factors are not so inconsequential. Attempting to suppress a stereotype, expecting counterstereotypic events, or focusing on counterstereotypic group members have all been shown to have a significant influence on automatic stereotypes. Moreover, there is some evidence that such strategies can have longer-term effects (Dasgupta & Greenwald, 2001; Kawakami et al., 2000).
Although the evidence is compelling with regard to the possibility of moderating automatic stereotypes, the likelihood of such moderation in everyday social encounters is not yet known. For example, suppression is a highly intuitive control strategy, yet its success depends on the employment of a specific implementation intention (Gollwitzer & Schall, 1998) or extensive practice (Kawakami et al., 2000). In addition, other research has shown that suppression (presumably without those additional features) can backfire and actually magnify automatic stereotypes (Galinsky & Moskowitz, 2000; Macrae et al., 1994). It is also important to acknowledge that any explicit strategy takes time and motivation to implement (Blair & Banaji, 1996), and its effects may not generalize beyond the specific context within which it is used. As discussed previously, Gollwitzer and Schall (1998) found that suppression coupled with an implementation intention reduced automatic stereotypes associated with the targeted person but not another group member. In addition, in a replication of the Blair et al. (2001) effects, Carpenter and Banaji (2001) found that counterstereotypic mental imagery moderated participants' automatic stereotypes but not their automatic evaluations of women.
It remains for future research to determine what strategies under what conditions are the most effective in moderating automatic stereotypes. An answer will surely depend on additional considerations, such as individual differences in motivation and skill. For example, Moskowitz, Gollwitzer, Wasel, & Schaal (1999) found that people who have a chronic goal of fairness exhibited less automatic stereotypes than nonchronics. Because the chronically motivated individuals had as much explicit knowledge about stereotypes as the nonchronics, Moskowitz et al. suggested that the former group may be better at automatically suppressing their stereotypes. Wasel and Gollwitzer (1997) also found that chronically motivated perceivers were able to significantly reduce automatic stereotypes when the stimuli were consciously perceptible (200-ms presentation), as they were in the Moskowitz et al. study. However, such moderation did not occur when the stimuli were subliminal, and the participants were unaware that stereotypes might be operating.
It is probably the case that strategic efforts to moderate automatic stereotypes and prejudice require some awareness, motivation, skill, and resources to be successful (Bargh, 1992, 1999)—although this may be less true with practice (Kawakami et al., 2000; Monteith, 1993). Nonetheless, the evidence shows that just because a process is automatic, it cannot be assumed to be impervious to perceivers' goals and strategies.
- Blair, Irene V.; The Malleability of Automatic Stereotypes and Prejudice; Personality & Social Psychology Review; 2002; Vol. 6, Issue 3.
Reflection Exercise Explanation
Goal of this Home Study Course is to create a learning experience that enhances
your clinical skills. We encourage you to discuss the Personal Reflection
Journaling Activities, found at the end of each Section, with your colleagues.
Thus, you are provided with an opportunity for a Group Discussion experience.
Case Study examples might include: family background, socio-economic status, education,
occupation, social/emotional issues, legal/financial issues, death/dying/health,
home management, parenting, etc. as you deem appropriate. A Case Study is to be
approximately 150 words in length. However, since the content of these Personal
Reflection Journaling Exercises is intended for your future reference, they
may contain confidential information and are to be applied as a work in
progress. You will not
be required to provide us with these Journaling Activities.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Reflection Exercise #1
The preceding section contained information
about strategies to counter automatic stereotypes. Write
three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section
in your practice.
According to Blair, what decreases in response to counterstereotypic mental imagery increasing the accessibility of counterstereotypic associations? Record the letter of the correct answer