The ABC of Stereotypes
Perceiving each person only as an unique and distinct individual without relying on any assumption based on this person’s group membership (e.g., that she is a woman, a teenager, a professor) would result in an unbearable complexity of information. People therefore simplify and rely on stereotypes they have of specific groups. Although these associations often seem highly idiosyncratic and specialized at first sight (e.g., hairdressers are flamboyant, ornithologists are shy, Germans are rude), many authors have argued that stereotype content varies on only a few relevant dimensions (e.g., warmth and competence). In the present research, we aim to fill an existing gap in the current literature by complementing the existing predominantly theory-driven approaches to fundamental dimensions of stereotype content with a strict data-driven approach that allows an estimation of the spontaneously employed dimensions of stereotyping. Results show that social groups are primarily seen as similar based on their agency (dominance, competitiveness, confidence) / socio-economic status (wealth, power, status), and as a second dimensions based on their beliefs (traditionalism vs. modernism, conservatism vs. liberalism, religiosity vs. scienceorientedness, and conventionality vs. alternativeness). These findings are reconciled with the extant literature emphasizing the centrality of communion (warmth, like ability, trustworthiness, benevolence, altruism and sincerity) by showing that communion is an emergent quality, resulting from a central position in the two-dimensional space of agency and beliefs.