Eclectic Grounds

conflicts and conversation

Posts Tagged ‘stereotype

Negative group stereotypes: A self-fulfilling prophecy

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Reminding individuals of a negative stereotype about their social group decreases their confidence, their performance, and ultimately creates a situation where the stereotype becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is suggested by Allen McConnell’s and Sian Beilock’s research, which they present in the video below.

While the research presented here focuses mainly on steretypes against women, the results also add to the debate on the educational achievements of other social groups. The German weekly Der Spiegel, for example, remarks in a report on a recent study on the educational attainments of immigrant groups in Germany that:

If your name is Ümit rather than Hans or Gülcan rather than Grete, you’re less likely to climb the career ladder. Some 30 percent of Turkish immigrants and their children don’t have a school leaving certificate, and only 14 percent do their Abitur, as the degree from Germany’s top-level high schools is called — that’s half the average of the German population.

The study draws a complex picture, yet “low prestige, negative stereotypes and lack of role models” are central features in the explanation of the results.

Negative stereotyping and its ugly consequences are not easily fought off. An example: last week, a prominent social democratic (!) politician stated that “a large number of Arabs and Turks in [Berlin] have no productive function except selling fruit and vegetables”. A sad state of affairs…

Written by henrik

October 7, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Lazy Bosnians?!

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A Bosnian was applying for a job.

“Weren’t you, Bosnians, too lazy?” asked the employer.

“Oh, no” said the Bosnian, “It is the Montenegrins who are lazy. We are the stupid ones.”


by Ivalyo Ditchev. I wanted to leave the quote stand alone at first … but of course, I don’t want to withhold the context. Ditchev writes:

In the Balkans, a very high level of solidarity is expected of the national in front of foreigners when questions of symbolic importance to the imagined community are approached. Under communism and the different Balkan dictatorships the act of “presenting a bad image of the country” was often considered to be a crime and could be punished by prison or reeducation camp. After the change in the 80-s the pressure on the individual was obviously diminished, but did not disappear. It could be best observed in the cases of the sacred taboos, that each Balkan national culture has imposed upon itself and that produce the linguistic rituals of belonging or not-belonging. The name “Republic of Macedonia” should not be pronounced by a real Greek, a Bulgarian should deny the existence of a Macedonian language, a Turk should never admit the occurrence of the Armenian genocide, etc.

At my workplace we had to learn this the hard way during an international seminar: when auomatically copy-pasting the country of origin as stated by the participants in the application forms onto the name badges, a Greek person was infuriated when she saw “Macedonia” written on the badge of another participant.

Written by henrik

April 10, 2009 at 12:11 pm

The social psychology of discrimination

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Several experiments in social psychology have tried to find out about the effects that arbitrary stereotyping and discrimination or privilege and power has on individuals. The most famous of these were the Zimbardo experiments.

Another one of those experience was conducted in a primary school by teacher with herclass of third-graders. To make the kids understand racial discrimination, the teacher split them up according to blue and brown eye colour. One group was defined as superior, the other as inferior.

I recently saw a Frontline documentary about the case filmed 14 years later, in which the former pupils describe the profound effects that the experience had on them. Quite ordinary, white people from a provincial town in the US state Iowa describe the humiliation, anger, demoralisation and hatred they felt at their own personal discrimination – and the feeling of (unfounded) power they got when they were in the dominant group.. 

"A Class Divided"
“A Class Divided” – find the documentary here.

It’s quite intense to see the distress and violence that the participants describe, which resulted from entirely arbitrary faultlines. Experiments like those certainly help us understand the impact of ethnic, religious or any other out-group stereotyping. When talking about “blacks”, “Turks”, “Muslim” or “women” in a discrimatory manner, we usually internalise our role – discimated and disciminators alike. Documenations like the one here can shake us up a little about our everyday behaviour.

Thanks Nayano for digging it up!

Written by henrik

February 4, 2009 at 4:43 pm